Autumn in Mexico brings a cross-cultural pollination of holiday celebrations. Ancient traditions of mystery and magic from the Mayan and Aztec people combine with modern party vibes of the Caribbean and North America to make this one of the most fun times of the year here in Playa del Carmen.
The traditional Mexican Autumn holiday is called Dia de los Muertos, or “The Day of the Dead,” and takes place on November 1st and 2nd. While sounding a bit scary, the holiday is actually a family-oriented celebration of life and a remembrance of loved ones who have passed on. The evening of November 1st is called La Noche de Duelo or Night for Mourning. On this evening it is said that the spirits of departed loved ones return to earth. Families gather for holiday meals which include the traditional pan de muerto or Dead Bread, which is a sweet cinnamon bread baked in a circular pattern. The spirits are welcomed and their lives remembered with feasting, drinking and music. Then on November 2nd, people will often visit the graves of family members and have picnics or other celebrations at the cemetery.
Dia de los Muertos is also celebrated by the building of ofrendas, or altars, in the memory of those who have died. These altars are decorated with photos, favorite food and drinks of the deceased along with brightly colored flowers, candles and ribbons. In addition decorations for homes, stores and schools feature images of skeletons in clothing going about their daily lives, often in humorous poses. In the same vein, candied skulls with frosting decorations are very popular among children. The idea behind such decorations is to remember that death is part of the cycle of life, and that rather than fear it we should learn to accept and even laugh at it.
We love this tradition and we build our own ofrendas each year for our friends and family who are no longer with us. For some photos and more stories about our ofrendas please take a look at our past blog entries: Day of the Dead and Mexico’s Day of the Dead Alive and Well in Playa del Carmen.
While the celebration of Day of the Dead tends to be a family affair, the famous eco-park of Xcaret here in Playa holds a huge annual public presentation with art, music and dance to celebrate and explain this holiday which predates the Spanish conquest of Mexico. For a great description and some wonderful photos of the park’s displays and activities please visit our friend Michele’s blog entry from a few years back: A Celebration of Life and Death at Xcaret.
Of course Playa has always been a magnet for many cultures, and so it is no surprise that the American version of Halloween has made its way down here. Many local Mexican children have fully embraced the fun of wearing costumes and running through the streets begging for candy. Stores like Walmart now feature the same costumes and decorations one sees back in the United States–something that was not true even a few years back when we moved here to Mexico. Bags of candy marked for Halloween and even pumpkins to carve as Jack o’ Lanterns are also commonly seen. On Halloween night (and for a few nights before and after), costumed children dressed as devils and witches and favorite superheroes will flood the resort zone pedestrian mall of 5th Avenue, running between the stores, cafes and restaurants asking for treats.
And it’s not just the kids who celebrate Halloween here in Mexico. Tourists and visitors arriving in Playa for the last days of the month of October will find there are plenty of fun and unique activities. For example our friends at the Mexico Blue Dream Dive Shop are holding a Pumpkin Carving Contest. However this contest has a Caribbean twist–it is held underwater in scuba gear! For details go to their Facebook event announcement.
There will also be plenty of adult costume parties at many of the bars here in town. Costumes that range from creatively funny to shockingly sexy will be seen up and down the resort zone’s 5th Avenue on Halloween night. The biggest and best of those parties is always the one at the Luna Blue Bar. There will be live music with the legendary troubadour of the Caribbean Coast, Barefoot Skinny. We will have costume contests with prizes for the best and the sexiest costumes. The pool will be open so bar patrons can have their margaritas floating in the pool. Playa’s best bartender, Jorge Sierra, will be pouring the drinks and there will be surprises and fun all night long from 7 pm until the witching hour of midnight. For some photos of our parties of previous years, please click here.
The fun doesn’t stop after Halloween. The beautiful fall weather here (average temperature around 83 degrees) is perfect for some of our other fall events like The Annual Riviera Maya Jazz Festival which features free concerts by internationally acclaimed musicians right on the beach. And America’s Thanksgiving Day/weekend is also a big celebration down here. Many restaurants will serve special dinners with turkey, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and all the trimmings. Imagine having your turkey feast only steps from the blue water of the Caribbean Sea. Now that’s something to be thankful about.
Before plunging into the craziness of the holiday rush, why not treat yourself to a few days of pleasure here in Mexico at the award-winning Luna Blue Hotel & Bar. It’s a gorgeous time of year to be in paradise.
‘LIKE’ the Luna Blue Hotel & Bar