From October 30th to November 2nd, Day of the Dead is a huge celebration throughout Latin countries. It is a time to remember and honor those we loved that have passed on. It is a time to celebrate the lives they lived. In Yucatan, the Maya call this holiday Hanal Pixan meaning “feast for the souls”. During these 4 days, the living will build alters, visit cemeteries and prepare foods all in remembrance of their dead friends and family. It is believed that this is the time of the year the souls return to mingle amongst their living loved ones. Each year, visitors to Mexico can enjoy dancing, musical performances, costumes, storytelling, folk art, traditional gastronomic goodies and parades all commemorating this ancient, cultural holiday.

Places in the Riviera Maya and Yucatan to Celebrate Dia de los Muertos

Don’t miss the “Festival of Life and Death” at Xcaret in Riviera Maya. Every year, the scent of burning copal, elaborate alters, skeleton faces, and orange and yellow marigolds fill the park. Activities include concerts, plays, dances, art exhibitions and a variety of children’s workshops. Festival dishes are prepared to honor the dead and feed the living. Celebrate this cultural event to its fullest with all the the sights, sounds, scents and flavors of Dia de los Muertos!
Yaxche Mayan cuisine restaurant in Playa del Carmen hosts a reservations-only Hanal Pixan dinner on November 1 and 2 that comes complete with traditional festival dishes, local shamans and dance performances.
Merida is filled with decorations, parades and skeleton costumes. One of the largest alter exhibits in Mexico is presented in the town square, as well as smaller exhibits in all the city parks. Traditional Mayan foods made especially for the holiday, mucbil pollo (a chicken pie) and pan de muerto (sweet bread), can be found in the mercados and are sold by street vendors.
Izamal in Yucatan is a full-on Mayan community that celebrates Hanal Pixan in the most traditional ways. The near-by cemetery, Hoctun, is quite a site all year round with its colorful memorials, but during the 4 day celebration the burial ground takes on a whole new “life” filled with candles, food, flowers, burning copal, and momentos. The folk art store in town, Hecho a Mano, builds a spectacular exhibit with Day of the Dead art pieces they have collected over the years.
Like it or not, Halloween is starting to make its presence known here in the Riviera Maya as more and more gringos relocate to the coast. Witches, pumpkins and trick-or-treating are being embraced by the locals. La Buena Vida Bar & Restaurant in Akumal puts on a Halloween celebration that tourists and town locals alike have made legendary. Live bands, costume contests and even a haunted house keep this party rockin’ til the wee hours.
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