Americans tend to avoid thinking about death unless they simply can’t help it. But across the border in Mexico, there is an entire holiday centered around death- El Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. The Day of the Dead is traditionally a time to honor dead relatives and friends. It is believed that the souls of the dead are able to return during the celebration and be with their loved ones again.
The celebration takes place right after Americans get done celebrating Halloween, and it’s actually 2 days long. On November 1st, dead children and infants are believed to return in spirit to spend the day with their families. T0 honor them, families decorate their graves and an altar inside the home with little gifts like toys and balloons.
The next day, November 2nd, is the day that the souls of adults come back. They are honored with more “grown-up” offerings, such as bottles of tequila or mezcal, or atole, a thick, hot drink made from cornstarch.
Both children and adults are also honored with altars and tombstones draped in yellow-orange marigolds, and rich feast of cakes and candies, most decorated with grinning skulls. Most people visit the graves of family members in cemeteries, and in some areas, more elaborate ceremonies and candlelit vigils take place.
The best places to observe the Day of the Dead in Mexico are generally considered to be Mixquic in Mexico City, the island of Janitzio in Michoacan, Oaxaca and Meridia in Yucatan. It’s not uncommon for tourists to visit these areas to observe the celebrations-just remember to be respectful, since this is a serious, important holiday for the people who live there.
If you’d like to see the Day of the Dead for yourself, you’ll need to get a passport, quick. Since June of 2009, passports have been required for all travel to Mexico. Currently, it takes about6 weeks to get a passport if you apply with regular processing, and at least 3 weeks if you apply for expedited processing.
That doesn’t really give you enough time to get your passport and get to Mexico in time for the Day of the Dead this year, but a private passport expediting company can help you get a passport more quickly.
An expediting company will your passport directly to the Department of State, putting it on the “top of the stack.” This means you get your passport quick, with processing times as low as 24 hours.