My Bucket List Festival: Dia de Los Muertos

My Bucket List Festival: Dia de Los Muertos

Do you have a bucket list festival? The one I’ve always wanted to attend is Mexico’s Dia de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.  And not just because of that (staged) opening sequence in the last James Bond film, Spectre! Here are some more reasons why I think this is a one in a lifetime must-visit.

Dia de los Muertos

Dia de Los Muertos originated thousands of years ago in Aztec times and is about an acceptance of death and a celebration of a life lived, rather than mourning a life lost. The Aztecs believed that death was just a gateway to the underworld pending a rebirth to a higher state. And that during the autumn/winter crossover, the dead can come back to visit the living. Since then, Christianity has merged this native celebration with All Saints Day (November 1) and All Souls Day (November 2).  So that’s why you often see predominantly Catholic crosses combined with traditionally Aztec skulls.

Photo by Cristian Newman

It’s not Hallowe’en

While Dia de Los Muertos is a very social three-day festival that takes place through Mexico’s streets and squares, it’s important to remember that it’s not Hallowe’en. Yes, people dress up in costume, sing and dance, but it’s to celebrate and honour their dead, not to go trick or treating. 

October 31 is a day of preparation: the women clean and cook while the men build the altars. November 1 is for the children who can place sweets and toys on the altars for the spirits’ journeys back to the underworld. And November 2, the actual Day of the Dead, is very definitely for the adults with shots of tequila on offer!

Altars and offerings

The traditional altar, or ofrenda, is built in private homes and cemeteries but isn’t meant for worshipping. Instead, they’re a way to remember family members who have passed on into the afterlife. So they house food, water, candles, and family souvenirs for the visiting dead. The marigold is the main flower used in Dia de Los Muertos festivities, and families lay petals in a trail from altar to grave, to guide any wandering souls back to their place of rest.

Dance with the dead

Although Dia de Los Muertos celebrations take place throughout Mexico, Oaxaca is traditionally Mexico’s capital of departed souls and the best place to dance with the dead.

Everfest has some helpful tips for what to do and how to behave during the celebrations:

#1. Treat the spirits with respect – speak well of them always.
#2. Join in the festivities and have your face painted by one of the local artists.
#3. Altars are an important part of the festivities and cemetery tours are a good way to visit them.
#4. Calacas – dancing marionette skeletons make great souvenirs.

Photo by Valeria Almaraz

Getting there

So these are my reasons why I would really love to visit the Day of the Day festival at some point (along with a return to Malta of course!)  Perhaps we’ll go when Flora is a little older so she can properly appreciate all the cultural and historical nuances of this amazing celebration.  And hopefully I’ve inspired you to think about visiting Dia de los Muertos too?  If I have and you’re thinking about going later this year, Destination2 * have some great deals to Mexico from their homepage.

But just in case you need a little more persuasion, here’s that opening sequence from Spectre to get you in the mood…

Have you been to a festival abroad before? Where did you go?

* This is a sponsored post.

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Jordanne / ThelifeofaglasgowgirlLydiaDorotaFrejaAditi Recent comment authors
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Oooh this is such an interesting post! Dance with the dead sounds fascinating, I love Mexico so much and this list has just reminded me of the Disney movie Coco which I love! Such a fun post thanks for sharing!
Sophie – – x


Wow, sounds an interesting festival and so unusual too! I too would love to go back to Malta!! xx

Rebecca |

Sophie Wentworth

I’ve never heard of this before but looking at these photos, I can definitely see why you would want to go there! It looks and sounds amazing! I can’t say I’ve given much thought to festivals abroad but you’ve made me consider it x


Jessica & James

I’ve never been to a festival before, let alone abroad but I would love to. This sounds crazy good!

Jessica & James | /


This is an interesting post! I’ve never thought about it but having read your post it would be something I would put on a bucket list! It sounds like a really cool celebration, I actually quite like the sound of celebrating the dead. It would just be really cool to experience anything that is grounded in other countries culture rather than things that are specific tourist attractions.


andthenzen ✨

I love the whole idea of Dia de los Muertos! I’ve seen someone else recommend it, but you should definitely watch Coco because it’s based around this festival, and it’s such a heartwarming movie.. ?


I’ve never heard of this festival but it’s pretty fascinating and very unusual too! It actually sounds like a fun celebration instead of anything eerie or dark. I went to Mexico a few years ago and loved it there. This would be the perfect festival to do whilst enjoying a holiday in the sunshine. Great post Lisa and very informative <3 xx

Bexa |

Joan Senio

How amazing…. now where did I put my passport ?????

melissa major

I have never been to one before but I did go Mexico before and was told a lot about it, it’s very interesting and fascinating too. I would love to go again


I too would love to go. They do one in Manchester, UK and not as big but still interesting!

Kate xx

Lena Dee

Omg ? I’d love to experience one of these too! I think it’s such a beautiful ceremony and festival all round. The attire is gorgeous and so creative and the meaning behind it is super sweet! Lol omg have you seen CoCo?? It made me think of this even more ?? let me know when you’re ready to take a trip Lisa! I am down ?

xx Lena |


I’ve always been fascinated with the Day of the Dead festival in Mexico because it just looks amazing! Hopefully I’ll get to go and experience it one day! X


This was a really neat post. Many do confuse Day of the Dead with Halloween. This definitely would be an experience to remember! Good one for the list.

Francesca Wellman

If you haven’t seen Coco yet, I highly recommend it! I think the film will invigorate interest in this festival, hopefully people visiting for it will treat it with respect.

Francesca x |


So spooky yet I love it! The whole concept of accepting the dead, paying respect to the spirits and at the same time being all fun!


Sounds like such an interesting festival. I would love to go there!


Thinking of this festival I would definitely think first of Coco Disney movie. It was so amazing and presented the entire event in such a beautiful day. I would also like to see this one as well as rock am ring.


I remember having the Day Of The Dead as part of an art project at secondary school, and what attracted me was the bright, bold colours; makes a change from the UK!

Jordanne / Thelifeofaglasgowgirl

Oh I totally love this hun! It’s something I have always wanted to experience for sure, there’s a club night about once a month near me that’s a mini Dia De Los Muertos festival and I still haven’t been yet but it always sounds great when people tell me about it. I would really like to experience the real thing.

Jordanne //