Oaxaca Day Of The Dead 2021: The Ultimate Guide

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UPDATE: COVID Travel Warning Oaxaca 2020

Currently, travelers are advised to defer their plans to visit Oaxaca. Oaxaca and Mexico are experiencing a resurgence in Coronavirus cases. Many restrictions are in place limiting the movement of travelers and leaving many businesses and attractions closed. There have been reports of locals showing hostility to tourists flaunting restrictions and travel advice.

Sadly this is not the best time to visit, least of all for a celebration like Día de Muertos.

The article originally prepared as a guide for Oaxaca Day Of The Dead 2020 is provided below to help with forwarding planning for Oaxaca Day of the Dead 2021

One thing people have come to closely associate with Mexico Día de Muerto, the Day of the Dead celebration. And within Mexico, the city of Oaxaca is renowned for its authentic and vibrant Day of the Dead festival. This is our guide to experiencing the Oaxaca Day of the Dead 2021.

What is the Day of the Dead?

Día de Muertos, known as Day of the Dead in English and some times back-translated as Día de Los Muertos, is a Mexican spiritual festival that celebrates and remembers the dead. The Day of the Dead is actually three days of observances, traditions, and celebrations. The festival originated in the Central and Southern regions of Mexico but today it is observed all over the country. Día de Muertos is one of the most exciting times of the year and one of the best examples of Mexico’s famous fiestas.

Thanks to popular films like James Bond and Disney’s Coco, awareness and interest in this festival has exploded. Tourists flock to Mexico to observe and take part in the festivities, a trend that the Mexican people have welcomed.

The Day of the Dead is a time to remember and celebrate family and friends who have passed. The way Mexican people choose to remember the deceased is through the celebration of their life.

Another feature of the events and rituals surrounding Día de Muertos is the tendency for self-expression. Incredible artistic decoration, music, poetry, dancing and costume are all part of this vibrant festival.

Like other religious or cultural holidays, it is a time for families to gather together, to carry out traditions, and to celebrate. For tourists coming to observe and partake in the festival, it is important to be aware of the cultural meaning and significance of this celebration.

Where to See the Day of the Dead 2021?

Oaxaca has become renowned for its Day of the Dead celebrations

Outside of Mexico City, Oaxaca is probably the region that is most commonly associated with the Day of the Dead. Día de Muertos originated in this part of Mexico and has been celebrated here for centuries. Here you will get a find a traditional and authentic Día de Muertos experience.

Moreover, the manageable size of the city and centralized location of festival activities makes the celebration more accessible to tourists who may find it difficult to track down exactly what is happening throughout other places where the Day of the Dead is celebrated. For example, the sprawling metropolis of Mexico City.

Oaxaca is a vibrant and busy city year-round for arts, culture, and of course, food and should be on any list of the best places to visit in Mexico. And the best time to see the incredible city of Oaxaca is during the Días de los Muertos.

When to See the Oaxaca Day of the Dead 2021?

The festival happens each year between the 31st of October and the 2nd of November. But the weeks leading up to the Day of the Dead also have activities and celebrations, and the city of Oaxaca is buzzing with anticipation.

Over the three days of the festival known as “the Days of the Dead”, a variety of observances, traditions, and events take place. October 31st is All Hallows Eve. November 1st is known as “el Dia de Los Inocentes” or the Day of the Children, this day is set aside to remember children and young people who have passed on. November 2 is the Día de Muertos and his held in honor of adults that have passed on.

Dia de los Muertos, Oaxaca 2021 will fall between Sunday the 31st of October 2021 and Tuesday the 2nd of November 2021. The weeks of the festival Oaxaca will also host a range of events and activities and the city will be buzzing with locals as well as foreign and national tourists.

What to Do in Oaxaca for Day of the Dead 2021?

Cemeteries, like this one in Xoxo, are where families gather to remember and celebrate with loved ones who have passed on during day of the dead in Oaxaca.

Día de Muertos is a time for family and community but also for celebration and the locals in Oaxaca are happy to share this magical festival with visitors.

Like other traditional celebrations, Día de Muertos is a time when families come together to celebrate and carry out rituals and traditions. At its core, it is a time of remembrance and connection with people who have passed on. One fascinating take away from this festival is the way Mexicans deal with death. Choosing to commemorate, celebrate, and even party with the spirits of their deceased love ones.

Like other spiritual observances around the world many families stay home to celebrate the festival with loved ones. And the events and celebrations that are public are often family or community organized making it difficult to discover schedules and timetables (welcome to Mexico). If you come looking for a carefully planned and timetabled experience you may be disappointed. This festival happens all around you and your job is to wander around, observe it, and soak it all in.

That being said there are a number of traditions and experiences that you should be sure to track down to properly celebrate the Day of the Dead festival.

Find a Day of the Dead Comprasa

These community organized parades are planned and executed by families or community groups. Elaborate costumes are prepared for months in advance as are huge paper mache puppets. Musicians play brass instruments and marching drums and dancers dance as these rolling fiestas move through the streets of Oaxaca. The comparsa is one of the most festive elements of the Día de Muertos and not to be missed!

There is no (published) schedule for many of these comparsas. But follow the sounds in the street around Oaxaca’s Centro or Barrio de Xochimilco and you are sure to find one. Generally, the comparsas take place between sundown and 10 pm.

The village of Etla thirty minutes drive from the city of Oaxaca, is famous for there November 1 comparsa which goes into the early hours of the morning.

Visit a Cemetery During the Day of the Dead

Cemeteries are where families gather to remember and celebrate with loved ones who have passed on during day of the dead in Oaxaca.

The whole idea of Día de Los Muertos is to commemorate and celebrate with loved ones who have died. If you’ve seen the movie Coco, you may remember the premise, that in Mexican culture it is said you die twice. Once when you pass and again the last time anyone speaks your name.

Families gather in the cemeteries to remember their loved ones that have passed on. However, the day is one of celebration rather than mourning. People bring food, drink, and musical instruments to celebrate with those who have gone before.

Graves are decorated with candles, sand paintings, and more marigolds than you’ve seen in your life.

November first is known as “el Día de Los Inocentes” the day where families visit and commemorate children who have died. November second is the Día de Muertos, dedicated to parents, grandparents, and adults.

Visit a cemetery, and observe these incredibly significant cultural rituals. The cemeteries are busiest after dark late into the night. You shoud take time to visit a cemetery during the day or in the evening to see the decorations and again at night, after 10 pm or so to witness one of the most important facets of this celebration.

Two of the larger cemeteries with a rich history of Day of the Dead traditions are the Panteon General in Oaxaca, and the Xoxo Cemetery, 20 minutes taxi ride from downtown Oaxaca. These are two great place to experience the core of the Day of the Dead 2021 celebrations.

See the Ofrendas in Oaxaca

Ofrendas help guide the spirits back to their families during day of the dead in Oaxaca

Ofrendas or alters are set up as a way to guide the spirits of the deceased home to their families for the Day of the Dead. These small shrines are decorated with flowers and pictures of the deceased. They are also laid with candles, fruits, snacks, drinks, and cigarettes may be used to coax adults back home. Ofrendas dedicated to children may be laid with sweets or toys. The ofrendas are often set up within peoples home but can also be found throughout the streets of Oaxaca during the Day of Dead.

The ofrendas are yet another example of the incredible creativity and expression of this festival. Discover the simple through to the jaw-droppingly ornate ofrendas throughout the city of Oaxaca in the lead up to and over the course of the Day of the Dead festival.

Get your Face Painted and Dress up

Face painting is another popular way of self-expression during the day of the dead in Oaxaca
A couple of ghouls

The painted skeleton face or skeleton masks are some of the most recognizable icons of the Day of the Dead festivities. Originally thought to scare away the spirits once the festival had concluded. Faces made up as skulls have become an important part of the event.

Dressing up is another popular way of self-expression during the day of the dead. Traditional dresses adorned with flowers are popular for women as are floral headdresses. Men sometimes dress up in formal attire and top hats.

You can join in the festivities around Oaxaca during Day of the Dead by getting your face painted at one of the numerous stalls set up around the streets of central Oaxaca for around five or ten dollars.

Enjoy Pan de Muerto

Pan de Muerto is a sweet bread or pane dulce enjoyed during the Day of the Dead festival. The bread is sweetened with sugar and sometimes spiced as well. The bread also may be decorated with the shapes of bones to represent the deceased, sometimes arranged in a circle to represent the circle of life.

In addition to enjoying the Pan de Muerto at this time of year, families will also make a point to eat the favourite foods of their deceased loved ones in remembrance. Certainly a unique way of remembering the dead.

Oaxaca Day of the Dead Tours 2021

Our honest advice is to turn up in Oaxaca and feel it out for yourself. Like Christmas or New Years, Día de Muerto is not an event in a centralised location where you can take a tour to at a specific time.

Never the less if you want to let someone else take the reigns and the headache out of planing, there are options for Oaxaca day of the dead tours 2021.

Day of the Dead Oaxaca Mexico by National Geographic Journeys

If you are looking for an all inclusive experience the National Geographic offer a Day of the Dead Oaxaca Mexico tour. It is a 7 day (6 night) adventure with a maximum of 16 people. With accommodation, transfers, Day of the Dead activities, and a selection of meals pre-planned this trip is customized to eliminate any extra stress that may come with planning a holiday. Simply sign up, book your flights and relax.

Th tour also includes a range of optional additional activities to enjoy in and around Oaxaca such as visiting nearby ruins, cooking classes, mezcal tastings and more.

Take all the hassle out of planning your Day of the Dead Oaxaca 2021 holiday and let National Geographic Journeys handle it!

Private Tours with Locals

If you are jus wanting some extra guidance during the festival then private tours or smaller tours organized through local community groups or Airbnb experiences is probably the best way to organize a tour for Oaxaca’s Day of the Dead.

Talking directly with a locals offering tours and experiences through Airbnb can be a good way to find a local and authentic experience.

The Oaxaca Lending Library is a volunteer-run initiative that offers lectures, and tours throughout the year. During Day of the Dead celebrations, they offer authentic and intimate tours that focus on the history and cultural significance of the festival.

Where to Stay During Day of The Dead Oaxaca 2021

Some skeletons who forgot to book accommodation early for Day of the Dead Oaxaca
Some skeletons who forgot to book accommodation early for Day of the Dead Oaxaca

A popular destination year-round for its incredible arts, culture, and culinary scene, Oaxaca has plenty of great accommodation options. But, you will need to book early if you want to get the best accommodation during the Day of the Dead as this is one of the busiest times of the year for tourism in Oaxaca. Two of our favorite places to stay in Oaxaca are:

Casa Antonieta

Located in the center of town, it is the perfect spot for a weekend getaway. Their attention to detail is impeccable, the service is top-notch and the location superb. The cafe downstairs also serves some of the best coffee in the city.

Casa Maye

Located just outside the exciting Barrio of Xochimilco, Casa Maye has everything you need for the weekend and for less than $100 per night. Not right in the center of things, but a short walk from everything.

Plus, you can spend time exploring Barrio Xochimilco and discovering this slightly less touristic part of Oaxaca.

Hopefully, when restrictions around the world ease, we can hope to see Oaxaca’s incredible Day of the Dead celebrations return to their former glory. Until then there is plenty to plan for your next Mexican adventure.

If you’re are planning to experience the Día de Muerto in the future and you’ve got a question, please ask us in the comments. If you’ve been to Day of the Dead in Oaxaca in the past, we’d love to hear about your experience below!

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