The Mexican Day of the Dead tradition blends Aztec/Maya, Roman Catholic and U.S./European traditions into a family commemoration of deceased family members. It’s a family memorial day.
Saturday-Monday, October 31 – November 2, 2020
Saturday, October 26, 2019 BEDFORD-STUYVESANT, Brooklyn ~ NYC Parks holds a family celebration of Day of the Dead and Fall traditions at Hattie Carthan Community Market
The skull and skeleton imagery may look scary, but there is nothing dark or scary about Day of the Dead. It’s a commemoration of family. Indigenous traditions are based on the idea that you live as long as someone remembers you, so at this time of the year, when the harvest work is done, families memorialize their loved ones and tend their graves.
Aztec/Maya peoples commemorated deceased family members in the month of August. It was a big deal because in Aztec/Maya cosmology, death is reality and life is just a dream.
European tradition (Samhain/Halloween) is that the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead dissolves on the night of October 31st. Colonizer priests in Mexico used their power over daily life to realign Aztec/Maya traditions with similar European Halloween, All Saints Day and All Souls Day traditions.
Later Irish immigrants to New York brought European Halloween costume and parading traditions with them.
Today we think of Day of the Dead as Mexican, but the source traditions are strongest in Oaxaca. In the 1930s, after the Mexican Revolution, the Mexican government promoted Day of the Dead as part of its effort to build a Mexican nation around its Indigenous identity.
In 1947, legendary Mexican muralist Diego Rivera painted Catrina into his mural “Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park.”
In the U.S. face painting became part of Halloween traditions.
Modern workforce migration patterns blended U.S. and Mexican traditions. Mexican workers used to head north in spring and return home to their families for the holidays. They brought Halloween costume, parade and face painting traditions with them.
In 2008, UNESCO recognized Day of the Dead as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. That helped popularize Mexican Day of the Dead traditions around the world.
There are unique versions of ancestral veneration everywhere in the Americas and around the world, but the Mexican tradition is the one that has become part of our global heritage.
In New York City, Calpulli Mexican Dance Company, NYC Parks, the American Museum of Natural History, El Museo del Barrio, Mano a Mano community organization, Our Lady of Mount Carmel-St. Benedicta School in Staten Island and others usually hold Day of the Dead celebrations. Calpulli’s shows are stunningly beautiful. Mano a Mano gets deep into the festival’s meaning.
It’s actually a private family tradition, so you can celebrate Día de los Muertos at home. Just remembering your family is enough.
By the way, in México, it’s “Día de Muertos.” “Dia de los Muertos” is a literal (but incorrect) reverse translation.
Fri-Sun, October 25-27, 2019 EAST VILLAGE, NYC ~ Day of the Dead altar building, Mexican Marketplace, live music and Indigenous Aztec ceremony at St. Mark’s Church-in-the-bowery
Sunday, October 20, 2019 WEST BRIGHTON, Staten Island ~ Help build a communal ofrenda (altar) and learn Mexican Day of the Dead handicrafts for the entire family with teaching artists at Our Lady of Mount Carmel-St. Benedicta School
Enscenario: El Día de Muertos Llega al Town Hall by Fernando Cárdenas NY1 Theater Reporter November 3, 2017
Day of the Dead Traditions
Sat-Mon, Oct 31-Nov 2, 2020 DAY OF THE DEAD
October 31 – November 2 ~ Mexican Marigolds are a Central American flower with healing powers that attract spirits to visit their families on the Day of the Dead
Sat-Mon, October 31 – Nov 2, 2020 DAY OF THE DEAD
October 31 ~ We build home altars to invite family souls to visit us on the Day of the Holy Innocents (November 1) and the Day of the Dead (November 2)
Thursday, July 25, 2019 LINCOLN CENTER ~ Mariachi Real de Mexico plays the main plaza, then La Santa Cecilia from Los Angeles performs before a screening in Spanish with English subtitles. 2018 Oscar & Golden Globe Best Animated Film
Past Day of the Dead Celebrations
What’s El Día de los Muertos? It’s Not Scary, and It’s Not Halloween by Kristina Puga November 1, 2017
St. Mark’s Church 131 East 10th St at Second Ave East Village, Manhattan Friday – Sunday October 27 – 29, 2017
Thursday, October 26, 2017 COUNT BASIE THEATRE Red Bank, New Jersey – Sunday, October 29, 2017 QUEENS THEATRE Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens – Saturday, November 4, 2017 THE TOWN HALL Midtown, Manhattan – This Day of the Dead story is so good it should be on Broadway
Saint Mary’s Park Mott Haven, The Bronx Saturday, October 28, 2017