The Día de los Muertos is a two-day holiday that celebrates life and death – a joyous time for people to remember the deceased and honor their memory through festivals, lively celebrations and meaningful offerings.
Family members prepare weeks in advance by building altars, decorating tombs, and cooking certain foods. November 1 usually focuses on children and November 2 on adults, but celebrations depend on individual families and communities, said Cynthia Vidaurri, a Smithsonian researcher.
While the Day of the Dead originated in Mexico and is most strongly identified with Mexico, it is a holiday that is celebrated across Latin America and everywhere with a Latino population.
If you want to celebrate the Día de los Muertos, take some time to learn the meaning of the day, understand its customs, and learn about traditional practices before joining the celebrations.
The Smithsonian has many helpful resources, including brief facts about the holiday. The Latino Center has an online exhibition.
Here are the places to find celebrations and activities in honor of the Day of the Dead:
Mexican cultural institute
Through November 20, the Mexican Cultural Institute is presenting Oaxaca in the United States, an event that celebrates the arts, culture and traditions of the state of Oaxaca. Throughout the event, the Mexican Cultural Institute will host a traditional Day of the Dead Altar for visitors, inspired by the altars in Oaxaca. Admission is free and no tickets are required.
National Museum of the Indians
The National Museum of the American Indian will showcase two traditions that are central to the Day of the Dead. After two different artists, the museum shows the art of making traditional figures from sugar and paper mache. The recorded event takes place online and is free to the public.
National portrait gallery
Monday, November 1st, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., the National Portrait Gallery celebrates the Día de los Muertos with an open-air festival for music and art. The museum will erect a communal altar on the steps of the museum, inviting visitors to learn more about the history of the celebration. Several artists will project a live digital paint, video and sound performance in honor of the DC Latino community. The event is free to the public.
Smithsonian American Art Museum
The Smithsonian American Art Museum is hosting an online celebration of the Día de los Muertos on October 30th from 10am to 11am. The event will feature a virtual performance of the Ballet Folklórico Mi Herencia Mexicana showing several Mexican folk dances. The event is free, but registration through Eventbrite is required.
5th annual charity festival Día de los Muertos
On November 6th, Día de los Muertos DC is holding its 5th annual Día de los Muertos benefit festival in the National Mall. The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and includes art, music, an altar, a parade and several catrinas, the Lady of the Dead. The event is free, but registration is recommended.
Día de los Muertos festival
The Catholic University of America is holding a Día de los Muertos festival on November 6th from 11am to 8pm. The festival aims to honor the richness of Mexican culture and traditions. It offers a variety of activities for children and adults, including live mariachis, an altar, dancing, and more. General admission is free, but tickets are required. If you’re interested in attending the altar or buying a kids’ package that includes face-paint and a craft kit, tickets cost $ 15-20.