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How Day of the Dead is celebrated in Oaxaca?

Day of the dead, a very lively tradition

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Day of the Dead is a very important tradition in Oaxaca. This belief in symbolic reunification is strongest here where they invoke the spirits of their dead to ""live"" once more with them. During the festivities, the earthly world becomes spiritual as the parade celebrates the families, the food and the offerings surrounding the event. 

The first preparations begin in the home where altars are created for the dead. Families decorate them with photos of the deceased, their favorite foods, flowers and other personal items. Some altars are covered in white cloth, others in papel picado and some a colorful combination of the two. Locals use sugar cane stalks to create arks to mark where the dead should enter.

The local markets also get involved in the celebration. They sell traditional items such as sugar skulls, pan de muerto and more. The entire town decorates for the occasion and each square, plaza and church puts up flowers and colorful papel picado. The town installs a ""Plazas de Muertos"" that sells sweets, moles, preserved fruits, mezcal and bread of the dead, tortillas and corn.  

Apples, pumpkins and corn pudding fill stores; each element is in its place to welcome the dead by November 1 where we honor the angelitos, or those who died as children. 

The next day, the adults who passed are celebrated with mezcal and other drinks they enjoyed during life. Locals tell stories and celebrate their accomplishments. Families also decorate the cemeteries with flowers and often set up picnics on the gravesite to spend time with the spirit of their ancestors. The entire day is dedicated to life and remembrance. 

Candles also play an important role in Day of the Dead. They light up homes, squares, restaurants and churches and pave a lighted path for the dead to follow. 

In Oaxaca, the decorations are especially spectacular, the cemeteries, streets and more are alive with candlelight and it is truly magical. There is even a contest for best altar.

The parade itself, filled with bands, fireworks, catrinas and skeleton costumes, is mysticism and culture at its best. 

Who participates?

Important dates:
Mid-October: preparations begin
October 31: The offers are set up
November 1: Day of the Angeles
November 2: The larger celebration

The Municipal Palace
The main cemetery 
The town of Santa Cruz Xoxocotlán

Day of the Dead Race
The youth society of Mexico, Salina Cruz, organizes a Day of the Dead race on November 2. The 5K race is catrina-themed and is open to the whole family. For more information visit:

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