Happy Halloween! Did you know that in countries such as Mexico trick-or-treating is not the custom for children? Instead, you may be familiar with hearing the words “Dia de los Muertos” or “Day of the Dead.” I’m here to share a little bit of history and background of this three-day celebration and how you can partake in the festivities at the Disney Parks this year.
Dia de los Muertos
Dia de los Muertos begins on October 31 and ends on November 2 of each year. The three-day celebration originated in Mexico even though the celebrations are practiced in other Latin American countries, the United States, and throughout Asia and Europe.
It derives from ancient pre-Columbian cultures and civilizations in remembering ancestors and those that have passed before us.
By the late 20th century in most regions of Mexico, practices had developed to honor deceased children and infants on November 1 and honoring deceased adults on November 2. In Catholicism, November 1 is All Saints Day and November 2 is All Souls Day.
Honoring our loved ones that have left Earth is done in many different ways during Dia de los Muertos. On the eve of October 31st, families come together at the cemetery and begin by cleaning and decorating the graves.
They also make ofrendas (altars), which can include pictures, relics, favorite foods or goods of loved ones. Vibrant-colored banners are made from papel picado (pecked paper which is a decorative banner of elaborate designs into tissue paper).
Ofrendas also include Mexican marigolds. (cempasúchil) It is believed that the petals of these flowers reach the ancestors and deceased loved ones. Additionally, they serve as a guide for their journey back home to earth for the festivities.
Pan de muerto and calaveras are also used to celebrate the holiday. Pan de muerto is a sweet roll that is shaped like a bun and is topped with sugar.
Calaveras, also known as sugar skulls, adorn the altars.
There is a variety of ways that the celebration of Dia de los Muertos is practiced throughout Mexico.
Each region can be very different in customs and traditions. For some areas, it is tradition to spend all day at the cemetery for the three days enjoying Mariachi music, dancing, and feasting on tamales.
In other regions, families attend church services while others spend the night at the cemetery or have picnics. Many families who are not able to visit the cemetery build their ofrendas in their homes.
Within my immediate family, we have introduced new and continuing yearly traditions as my children are biracial.
Ever since our daughters were young, we have made ofrendas within our own home complete with pictures and an item that reminds us of our family and friends or a treat that they enjoyed.
We even remember our family pets who have passed.
In November of 2017, Pixar released the film Coco, which takes place during Dia de los Muertos.
Guests can now participate in the celebration at The Disneyland Resort and the Mexico Pavilion in Epcot.
For the last few years, Zócalo Park in Disneyland has displayed a beautiful homage to Dia de los Muertos that includes activities and information regarding the tradition.
Guests can also spot Miguel from Coco.
Zocalo Park is located in front of Rancho del Zócalo Restaurante in Frontierland. The display is available until November 2, 2021.
Also through November 2nd, Disney California Adventure Park is transformed into an immersive event at Paradise Gardens Park. It features live Mariachi music and the Árbol de la Vida or Tree of Life experience. This is where guests are invited to write a memory and/or remembrance of a passed loved one to display on the nearby walls and tree.
In Disney California Adventure park, Plaza de la Familia is an immersive homage to the celebration. Here you will enjoy live entertainment with storytelling, folklórico dancers, Mariachi musicians, and delicious Mexican fare. The experience begins as you walk through the marigold arch which draws its inspiration from the bridge that connects the Land of the Living to the Land of the Dead in Disney and Pixar’s “Coco.”
“A Musical Celebration of Coco” is presented several times a day. This spirited show brings to life the story, songs and themes that are at the heart of the beloved film.
Led by the charming singer/storyteller Mateo and his troupe of singers, dancers and musicians recount the adventures of young Miguel on his journey to the fantastical Land of the Dead.
Guests can also design their own paper “alebrije” (spirit guide) mask of Pepita or Dante as part of a craft activity.
And don’t forget to cruise over to Cars Land! Guests will find a tribute to Día de los Muertos at Ramone’s House of Body Art.
Walt Disney World: Mexico Pavilion at EPCOT
The Mexico Pavilion at Epcot is a wonderful place to celebrate Mexican culture during Día de los Muertos at Walt Disney World.
The Mexico Pavilion offers the “Remember Me!” La Celebración del Día de los Muertos, a display of Día de los Muertos cultural décor and Mexican folk art. This is presented year-round so guests have plenty of time to visit.
Within the Día de los Muertos displays, guests can view images from characters from “Coco” visiting the graves of loved ones well as a large display of Miguel visiting his family’s ofrenda.
There is also an interactive activity for guests to create their own Coco-inspired character, and the great part is that it can also be linked to Disney PhotoPass!
I invite you and your family to partake in the festivities of Dia de los Muertos at the Disney parks, your community, or within your own home by making an ofrenda to your loved ones that have passed.
It is a beautiful way to remember those who left this earth, but that have not been forgotten. Feliz Dia de los Muertos!