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14 Oct 2021
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Local Tips

The Mexican Holiday Gone Mainstream

By now you probably have heard of Dia de Muertos, the Mexican holiday that is celebrated throughout Latin America and most recently other parts of the world. This holiday is a tradition that dates back to preColumbian times. Despite the misconception of a dark and sad event Dia de Muertos is a time to remember the dearly departed in a joyful celebration of their lives. Altars are placed within homes not as a grim memorial but as a cheerful reminder of the things, foods and images of those who are no longer with us. Yes, images of skulls and skeletons are used during this season but only to remind not to fear death but embrace life while we can. 

When Is Dia De Muertos?

Dia de Muertos is officially observed November 2 but in many parts of Mexico the festivities begin October 31 in observance of the Catholic holiday of All Saints Day a.k.a Halloween. 

Create Your Own Dia De Muertos Altar

Building an altar for Dia De Muertos can be a grand gesture or a small detail. There are tiered altars with each level representing different stages of life or small ones just to keep space for a loved one. Regardless if you wish to go big or small here are the basic elements to make your own altar. 

An Image 

Altars don’t always have to be for a departed loved one. They can also be themed and not just an ovation to loved ones. School children and businesses choose celebrities or historical figures who are no longer with us. 

Papel Picado 

Historically, altars had effigies of the four elements: air, wind, water, and earth. Papel Picado are colorful papers with cutouts that represent air. 

Pan de Muerto

This traditional sweet bread has a special meaning representing brotherhood and affection towards the departed. FYI pan de muerto also goes great with hot cocoa. 

Seasonal Fruit and Food

Oranges, sugar cane, candied fruit, and chocolate are also part of an altar as well as the departed favorite dish. At the end of the day, these meals can be enjoyed as part of the festivity. 


This bright orange flower is seasonal during this time of year and is used to decorate the altar. Its scent is said to help spirits find their way home on All Hallow’s Eve...if you believe in that kind of stuff. 


A lighted candle represents hope and faith leading the way for loved ones to find their way home. 

Sugar Skulls

Traditionally made of a sugar paste that dates back to the middle east, these colorful skulls represent the inevitable passage from the earthly to the mystical plane. 

Where can I find decorations and learn more about Dia De Muertos in Riviera Maya?

Mexicarte in Akumal and Tulum is known for much more than a souvenir shop in Riviera Maya. This cheerful shop is filled with original pieces handcrafted by Mexican families from all over the country. Its staff is also well versed in helping visitors find what they are looking for and create their own altars which are on display every year. 

Looking for more information about Akumal? Contact us and we'll gladly help you find what you're looking for in Riviera Maya.