Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a ritual celebrated in Mexico and certain parts of the United States, including the Valley.
The tradition is a celebration of the life and death of ancestors, with alters, family gatherings, stories and other traditional activities. Families build altars in their homes or visit gravesites and use flowers, food and pictures of the deceased to honor loved ones. Often large celebrations include a La Procesión at the end of the day where participants gather and march together.
It’s believed that the spirits visit their loved one on the eve of November 1st (the children) and 2nd (the adults). Included in the celebration are masks and brightly colored skulls, many decorated with icing. The icing represents the sweetness of life and the skull represents those who have passed on.
We’ve gathered a short list of Dia de los Muertos Festivals to join in honoring the life of ancestors.
The Mesa Arts Center hosts a two-day Dia de los Muertos Festival that features food, entertainment and a Mercado filled with an assortment of arts and crafts. Perfect for families, this free event includes many local artisans.
10 – 5 p.m. on Oct. 27
Noon – 5 p.m. on Oct. 28
Mesa Arts Center
One East Main St.
Mesa, AZ 85201
The Garden hosts a two-day family-oriented festival that uses music, dance and storytelling to explore the beauty and meaning of this special holiday. The event includes crafts, face painting, entertainment and La Procesión at the end of each day, where guests and performers will march as a community through the Garden to honor the departed.
Nov. 3-4, 10 – 5 p.m. Desert Botanical Garden
1201 N. Galvin Parkway
Phoenix, AZ 85008
Free with admission to the garden or membership
This is an interactive, multi-generational event. It is free and open to the public. Families are welcomed. The festival aims to instill a sense of history, pride and knowledge about our multicultural roots to the community at large. Presented by Cultural Coalition, the festival features hundreds of masked entertainers with performances in music, dance and theater to honor ancestors and celebrate our heritage and traditions. This year the festival will also feature a Community Altar. Bring a picture or memento to place on it.
Oct. 28, Noon – 6 p.m. Candlelight Procesión at 5:30 pm.
Steele Indian School Park
3rd Street and Indian School Rd.
Tens of thousands of people celebrate in elaborate costumes for the All Souls Procession and Finale Ceremony in Tucson in November. It’s one of the nation’s largest processions honoring the deceased, one week after other cities hold Day of the Dead events with similar themes. Participants paint their faces, dress in costumes, carry art and candles and wear towering paper mache puppets as they walk through Tucson streets.
According to the Arizona Republic, despite the event’s similarities to the Day of the Dead, organizers stress that the All Souls Procession is a uniquely Tucson event that was launched 26 years ago as a way for people to publicly grieve their lost ones in an artistic way.