The Day of the Dead is not at all like Halloween. The two days that comprise the Day of the Dead celebration are actually public holidays in Mexico. It is not surprising, then, that since a significant number of people from Mexico and with ancestors from Mexico live in Arizona, that it is a popular celebration here.
The Arizona Museum of Natural History provided this explanation of El Día de los Muertos, or, in English, Day of the Dead:
The Day of the Dead is a ritual the indigenous people of Mexico have been practicing for more than 3,000 years. It is still celebrated in Mexico as well as certain parts of the United States
and Central America. Native Aztecs and other Meso-American civilizations viewed death as the continuation of life rather than the end.
In the United States and certain parts of Mexico it is traditional for families to build in-home altars dedicated to the dead. They place flowers, food, pictures of the deceased and lighted candles around the altars.
Many Valley cities host Day of the Dead celebrations each year on the first two days of November. People will sometimes don wooden skull masks and dance to honor deceased loved ones. The wooden skulls, or calacas, are also placed on altars. A relative or a friend often eats sugar skulls, bearing the name of the dead person on the forehead.
Day of the Dead Celebrations/Exhibits in the Phoenix Area
Events and activities appear in date order.
Día de los Muertos Storytelling with Zarco
Join Zarco and his unique masked characters and hilarious style of story-telling to celebrate the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) tradition which includes Music by Carmen de Novais. With Zarco onstage will be the poetry spouting El Vato Poeta, the flirtatious La Comadre, the wise El Abuelito, and other beloved roles this prolific playwright has created to express the humor and sadness of our lives. Zarco puts it all into perspective in a delightful and engaging way, helping us to accept and even to laugh at our most primal fears about death. Free admission. Burton Barr Central Library, Phoenix.
In 2012: October 18 at 6 p.m.
Día de los Muertos Family Crafts Day Skulls and Nichos
Families are invited to join us in decorating skulls and nichos for Día de los Muertos. Alternate crafts for very young children will be available. Skulls and decorating materials will be provided by the library. Free admission. Burton Barr Central Library, Phoenix.
In 2012: October 20 at 2 p.m.
Stories of Our Lives
An exhibit of artist-made altars inspired by Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) will be on display at Burton Barr Central Library. Artists and visitors are invited to remember and share the stories and people who have influenced our lives. Seven altars will be presented. The Friends of the Phoenix Public Library will host a public reception with the artists from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012.
In 2012: exhibit on display October 21 through November 3
Día de los Muertos at the Desert Botanical Garden
View Ofrenda installations by local and renowned artists. On November 3 and 4 see the interactive altar honoring Día de los Muertos. The Garden’s past and present and the act of gardening itself. All installations are original pieces that have been created specifically for this exhibition. Mexican food, pastries and beautiful Mexican art will be available for purchase in the Garden's Mercado. Free with Garden admission. Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix.
In 2012: October 26 - November 4
Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)
Mexico’s “Day of the Dead” comes to life with The Phoenix Symphony in a Latin flavored performance featuring Mexican Folklore Dance Company, Ballet Folklorico Ollin Yoliztli. Sure to be a hit with the entire family, enjoy the color, pageantry and friendly chills. Come one hour early with children for pre-concert festivities including the instrument petting zoo and crafts. Tickets start at $19.
In 2012: Saturday, October 27
Dia de los Muertos Festival
An alter to honor loved ones, entertainment, food vendors, craft vendors and free crafts for children. Costume contest - Catain and Catrina costumes for ages under 18, and ages 18+. Salsa making contest. Free admission. Goodyear Farms Historic Cemetery, 3800 W. Santa Fe Trail, Avondale.
In 2012: Saturday, October 27 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Dia de los Muertos Celebration
An artist Mercado showcasing an assortment of traditional and contemporary merchandise, jewelry, and arts and crafts. Live artist demonstrations, live traditional music and dance, children's activities. Community altar. Free admission. Mesa Arts Center.
In 2012: October 27, 28
Mask Making: A Hands On Art Experience
Workshop for children on creating masks from paper using simple folding and cutting techniques. At the end of the program the children will put on their mask and walk through the library to Hance Park to join the adults in a Día de los Muertos procession in the park in remembrance of the lives of deceased loved ones. Free admission. Burton Barr Central Library, Phoenix.
In 2012: October 28 at 1 p.m.
Dia De Los Muertos at el Pedregal
Adelante Gallery will feature Day of the Dead Art and Imagery by local artists. Marmalade Skies with perform live on the courtyard stage on Sunday, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Guests are invited to view unique, hand-crafted works of art such as paintings and jewelry showing the holiday’s famous skeletons. Specialty margaritas and cuisine will be available at the Bakery Café and the staff at the Spotted Donkey Cantina will be dressed in Day of the Dead costume; specialty drinks/food offerings will be available.
In 2012: November 3, 4
Celebrating Day of the Dead at home? Why not combine a baking activity! Check out this amazing recipe for Day of the Dead Cupcakes from the District American Kitchen & Wine Bar in Phoenix.
All dates, times, prices and offerings are subject to change without notice.