Mexico is proving a more and more popular destination, thanks to improved flights and the recent fashion for Mexican street food championed by chefs Tommi Miers and Jamie Oliver. There are beautiful beaches, spectacular Mayan ruins and vibrant cities to explore, but our favourite slice of Mexico is the Day of the Dead, Dia de los Muertos, a fascinating insight into the Mexican mindset. While, technically speaking, the actual Day of the Dead Mexico is November 2nd, the tradition has evolved to include October 31st (thanks to Halloween influence from across the northern border) and November 1st as well. Halloween celebrations involve costumes and partying with friends but in Mexico, Halloween is seen as 'fun and games' whereas the 1st and 2nd of November are far more serious.
The souls of the deceased return
November 1st is traditionally referred to as Dia de los Angelitos (Day of the Little Angels) in Mexico and is the day to honour infants and children who have died. November 2nd is the actual Dia de los Muertos when families honour adults they have lost. It is believed that on these days, the souls of the deceased return to earth to be with their families and loved ones. How these holidays are celebrated varies widely throughout the different regions of Mexico - in some areas, the cemetery plays a larger role in celebrations whereas in others the home, complete with alters and shrines, is the centre of celebrations. In keeping with the importance of food in Mexican culture, the favourite meal of the deceased is often laid by the grave. Body paint and imagery of skulls and bones are often important in many areas of Mexico as well.
Parody and poems
The mood of these holidays will also vary from grievance to humorous as relatives reminisce about funny events and anecdotes from the deceased's life. One of Mexico's most prominent symbols of Dia de los Muertos, the Catrina figures (little statues of skeletons dressed in formal clothing), began from a printed parody poking fun at upper class Mexican women, and another tradition involves written poems called calaveras ('skulls') - mocking epitaphs poking fun at the quirky habits of the deceased. Oaxaca is a particularly interesting place to visit during Dia de los Muertos as elaborate, traditional celebrations still run strong in these regions.
Part of our new series 'Around the World in 80 Senses', celebrating our favourite things from our extensive travels. As with any self-respecting list, there's absolutely no scientific basis to the choices we've made. It's all shamelessly subjective, and we'll be listing this year's 80 Senses (in no particular order) between now and Christmas, so keep an eye out for new entries here on the blog and on our Twitter and Facebook pages.