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.
Face to Face in a Frenzy
A one-man masked 'dramedy' that combines storytelling techniques with home-grown, old school street theater. Zarco Guerrero will introduce characters with outrageous and dynamic personalities while addressing the themes of nonviolence, substance abuse, prejudice, self-esteem and world peace. He will be joined by community theater companies Teatro Mitote and Teatro Meshico that will offer their unique perspectives on the expressions of Dia de Los Muertos celebrations. The Friends of the Phoenix Public Library will host a Mercado (market) of artists' works following the program. Free admission. Burton Barr Central Library, Phoenix.
In 2013: October 17 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Honoring the Spirits of Music
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. The Friends of the Phoenix Public Library will host a public reception on First Friday, November 1st from 6 to 8 p.m.
In 2013: exhibit on display October 20 through November 2 during library hours
Día de los Muertos Storytelling, Music and Poetry Jam
Join Zarco Guerrero and his unique masked characters to celebrate the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) tradition. His performance includes music by Carmen de Novais and special guest appearances by local writers Stella Pope Duarte and Ruben Hernandez. The Friends of the Phoenix Public Library will host a Mercado (market) of artists' works following the program. Free admission. Burton Barr Central Library, Phoenix.
In 2013: October 24 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Día de los Muertos Family Craft Day
Decorate a papier mâché "sugar" skull or a mask for Día de los Muertos! This activity is appropriate for all ages; seating is limited. Free admission. Burton Barr Central Library, Phoenix.
In 2013: October 26 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Día de los Muertos Festival/Phx
The festival will feature Aztec, folklorico, and other cultural dance troupes performing original productions titled Las Calaquitas, La Visita, La Mascarada and Las Coronas. Festival attendees can participate in a colorful procession with "Las Flacas" 8-foot-tall animated puppets, and a "hands-on" childrens art-making activities led by local artists including award-winning artist Zarco Guerrero. Artists' Mercado, live music. Ethnic food available to purchase. Free admission. Margaret Hance Park, Phoenix
In 2013: Sunday, October 27 from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Dia de los Muertos Festival
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 2013: Saturday, October 26 (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and Sunday, October 27 (noon to 5 p.m.)
Día de los Muertos at the Desert Botanical Garden
View Ofrenda installations by local and renowned artists. Songs, dancing and storytelling. Mexican food, pastries and Mexican art will be available for purchase in the Garden's Mercado. Free with Garden admission. Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix.
In 2013: November 2, 3
Dance of the Dead
DJs Roya & Funkfinger of Tongue Tied host a party at Apollo's Lounge (5749 N. 7th St, Phoenix) every 1st Saturday of the month. In November, it's Dia De Los Muertos with indie, 80s and 90s music -- dead or alive. Bring friends and dancing shoes and celebrate All Souls. A tribute alter for music past will be erected. Bring your old cassettes, LPs, and photos to pay respects to genres gone by (DJ Roya is bringing her beloved Debbie Gibson cassette). Dress up! The best Muertos spirit will win a booze basket. Skull face paint for $5-10. Dia de Los Muertos crafts will be sold at the pop-up store. Everyone who signs up for the text raffle at the door will receive a $10 cab voucher. Green-screen photo booth experience. Tongue Tied fun (drink specials, Jell-o shots, Chi-town dogs food truck, and interpretive dancer Dave Driscoll Dance Machine!). 21+ only. Free cover before 9:30 p.m, $5 after.
In 2013: November 2
Día de los Muertos Tribute Concert
The Phoenix Boys Choir honors the music of Mexico's most beloved singers and composers with mariachi and classical performances. Trumpet virtuoso Jeff Nevin and Mariachi Champaña Nevín will be joined onstage by Mónica Ábrego, the stunningly talented opera and ranchera singer; José Luis Duval, direct from Mexico City by way of the Met in New York; and Rafael Palomar, one of the most famous mariachi musicians in the world. Ticket sales from the Dia de los Muertos concert benefits the Phoenix Boys Choir musical education program and the Rosie’s House Mariachi Training Program. Students from each organization will be featured in the finale and in selections throughout the concert. Tickets start at $23 Herberger Theatre, Downtown Phoenix.
In 2013: November 3
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.