Celebrating Día de los Muertos
In the Riviera Maya
In Mexico, death is not viewed as an end but as a continuation of life. Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos, is a profoundly meaningful celebration that captures the essence of this perspective. Steeped in tradition, culture and vibrant festivities, Day of the Dead is a time when families come together to remember and honor their departed loved ones. While the entire country participates in these celebrations, Mahekal’s home of Playa del Carmen (as well as the larger Riviera Maya region) offers a unique blend of ancient customs and contemporary festivities that make this experience truly exceptional. Here’s what you can expect during your visit.
Honoring the Departed
The Mexican Día de los Muertos (“Day of the Dead”) is often compared to Halloween elsewhere, but the tone is very different. Also referred to as Hanal Pixán among the Mayan peoples, this treasured spiritual festival is marked by colorful displays, parades, traditional costumes, and gatherings filled with incredible food and music — all in honor and memory of departed loved ones. The holiday has deep pre-Columbian roots, dating back well over 3,000 years. At its heart, the celebration is a fusion of indigenous beliefs and Catholicism, as it coincides with All Saints' Day (November 1) and All Souls' Day (November 2). During these days, it is believed that the souls of the deceased return to the world of the living to visit their loved ones.
While honoring traditions is paramount, Day of the Dead observations also showcase contemporary practices inherent to this ancient celebration. Local makers and artisans often fuse traditional elements with modern aesthetics, resulting in unique artwork, jewelry, and crafts that capture the essence of Día de los Muertos in a fresh and creative way.
The Ofrenda: Altars to Welcome the Departed
Central to Day of the Dead is the creation of altars, known as "ofrendas", in homes and cemeteries. These colorful altars are adorned with floral displays, sugar skulls, candles, incense, and the favorite foods and drinks of those who have passed on. These shrines are meant to guide the spirits back to the living world and offer them comfort and sustenance during their visit.
Calacas, or skeletons, are often seen as decoration during Day of the Dead celebrations. They come in various forms, from playful figurines to intricate paper mache sculptures. The elegant Catrina, a well-dressed feminine skeleton, is perhaps the most recognizable figure, symbolizing the idea that death does not discriminate. Bright orange marigold flowers (known as cempasúchil) also play a crucial role. Their vibrant color and fragrance are believed to guide the spirits to the ofrendas. You'll find marigolds adorning altars, streets, and cemeteries throughout Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya during this time.
Candlelit Vigils and Processions
As night falls, vigils and processions take center stage in many of Mexico’s communities. Families gather to light candles, share stories, and sing songs in memory of the departed. In Playa del Carmen, you can witness these mesmerizing processions winding through the streets, with participants dressed in traditional clothing and intricate face paint, paying tribute to their loved ones. Many families also visit local cemeteries to gather at the graves of their loved ones, clean and decorate the memorials, and share meals. It's a beautiful way to remember the deceased and maintain a connection with them.
Pan de Muerto and Sugar Skulls
Since food is an integral part of the celebrations, there are traditional treats enjoyed during Día de los Muertos celebrations, too. Pan de Muerto, a sweet bread decorated with bone-shaped dough, and colorfully frosted sugar skulls are made and shared. Families also often prepare the favorite dishes of the departed, creating a feast that represents a joyous reunion with loved ones.
Playa del Carmen's Festivities
In Mahekal’s home of Playa del Carmen and the surrounding Riviera Maya, the Day of the Dead takes on a special vibrancy. The city's Fifth Avenue (Quinta Avenida) comes alive with colorful decorations, street performances, and cultural events. Many local restaurants and businesses participate by creating ofrendas and offering special menus for the occasion. And of course, we’ll be celebrating right here at Mahekal, with observations throughout the resort.
Preserving the Spirit of Día de los Muertos at Mahekal
Day of the Dead in Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya is a heartfelt celebration that embodies the rich cultural tapestry of Mexico. It's a time when the living and the departed come together to share stories, love, and remembrance. As this tradition continues to thrive and evolve, it ensures that the spirits of the deceased are not just remembered but cherished, ensuring that their presence endures in the hearts of those they've left behind,
If you’d like to be a part of these treasured cultural traditions, Mahekal Beach Resort is the perfect choice for your October escape. Our amazing accommodations, wide-open spaces and premier oceanfront location ensure a truly memorable visit. When you’re ready to start planning, take a look at our Special Offers page, and select the Riviera Maya travel deal that’s right for you!