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The Ultimate Guide for the Day of The Dead in Oaxaca

Updated: Jun 15

The Day of the Dead, known as "Dia de los Muertos" in Spanish, is an ancient Mexican tradition. It's a particular time to remember friends and family who are no longer with us. This celebration takes place in late October and early November. During this time, people visit cemeteries to decorate the graves of their loved ones with flowers, candles, and other things. They also get together at home and often make a special place called an 'altar' or 'ofrenda' to honor those who have passed away.

Day of the Dead in Oaxaca
Day of the Dead in Oaxaca

In addition to celebrating the lives of those who have died, the Day of the Dead also serves as a reminder of our mortality. We honor the Dead because we recognize that death is inevitable, and as long as we remember them, they will continue to exist.


In Oaxaca, the Day of the Dead is the Most Important Holiday. Here is why?

Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) on November 1st and 2nd exemplifies the relationship between Christianity and pre-historic traditions. It is one of the most colorful and most time-honored holidays in Mexico. Although Dia de Los Muertos is nationally recognized, Oaxaca has become known for its traditionally rich celebrations to honor the return of the dead.

Preparations for the Day of the Dead begin at least a week before the festival. It is believed that on the last day of October, the souls of children who have passed away come to visit the altars. November 2nd is reserved for adults. It is an old belief that after their long pilgrimage from the other life, the dead arrive on earth tired and thirsty. To nourish these souls, offerings of candles, flowers, and traditional Oaxacan food are placed on the altars.

In villages outside Oaxaca, the celebration of Muertos is most commonly known as Todos Santos or All Saints. This day is often the most celebrated day of the year. Altars, both in homes and cemeteries, are honored by all. In local cemeteries, the graves are wonderfully decorated with candles, flowers, and food. During this time, the living join together to rejoice in the return of their ancestors. During the afternoon of November 1st, many Comparsas (parades) take place, representing and celebrating the return of the dead. Experiencing these parades and visiting cemeteries and homes enables you to enjoy the richness of this celebration and experience the cultural importance of the festivals.

What to do during the Day of the Dead in Oaxaca?

During these celebrations, you will find much to see and do in the city of Oaxaca and the surrounding villages. For this reason, we recommend that you plan your trip ahead of time. Every year, the Day of the Dead becomes more popular.

Visit a Cemetery. A few days before the celebration, families spend time cleaning and decorating the graves of their loved ones to prepare for their spirit's return. Cemeteries become places of celebration, with families gathering to eat, play music, and tell stories about their loved ones.

Set up an altar (Ofrenda). It is believed that the spirits of the departed loved ones may come back attached to the body of any visitor, so during this time, families get together in their homes, where they host fiestas and gatherings with their friends and families. Feel free to join the celebration, bring a photo of someone you want to remember, and gently ask if you can include it in the family altar.

Partake in a Comparsa: In Oaxaca city and many towns around the city, "Comparsas" or parades occur. In these parades, locals dressed in traditional costumes and 'calacas' and danced through the streets. Each town and neighborhood in Oaxaca has its own way and time of celebration. It is an opportunity to witness a celebration of an Oaxacan community.

Boost your Spanish on the Day of the Dead.

At Instituto Cultural Oaxaca, we created a Spanish Language program around the Day of the Dead. This program will allow you to delve deeper into this remarkable time's culture, art, food, and language.

During the Day of the Dead, witness the beauty of various cultural expressions and mouth-watering gastronomy. Families adorn their homes and host festivities to remember their loved ones who have passed. It's a magical time to embrace the richness of Mexico's heritage.

The Day of the Dead Program starts on Monday, October 21, and ends on Friday, November 1.

It includes:

  • 40 Hours of Spanish Language Classes.

  • 16 Hours of Cultural Workshops

  • 16 Hours of Intercambio ( Cultural Exchange)

  • 2 Tours to Cemeteries and Villages to witness Dia de Los Muertos in Oaxaca firsthand.

Check out our 2024 Day of the Dead Program and partake of the most-time-honored celebration of Oaxaca while you learn Spanish.

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