Día de los Muertos is a two-day holiday celebrating life and death – a joyful time for people to commemorate the deceased and honor their memory through festivals, lively festivities and meaningful offerings.
Family members prepare weeks in advance by creating altars, decorating graveyards, and preparing specific food. November 1 is typically focused on children and November 2 on adults, but the festivities depend on individual families and communities, said Cynthia Vidaurri, a Smithsonian researcher.
While Day of the Dead originated and is most strongly identified with Mexico, it is a holiday celebrated throughout Latin America and anywhere with a Latino population.
If you choose to celebrate Día de los Muertos, take the time to learn about the meaning of the day, understand the customs and know traditional practices before attending the festivities.
The Smithsonian has many useful resources, including quick facts about the holidays. Latino Center has an online exhibit.
Here are the places where you can find festive events and activities in honor of the Day of the Dead:
Mexican Cultural Institute
Through November 20, the Mexican Cultural Institute will present Oaxaca in the United States, an event honoring the arts, culture, and traditions of the state of Oaxaca. Throughout the event, the Mexican Cultural Institute will have a traditional Day of the Dead altar for visitors inspired by the altars in Oaxaca. Admission is free and tickets are not required.
National Museum of the American Indians
The National Museum of the American Indians will showcase two traditions that are central to the Day of the Dead. After two different artists, the museum will demonstrate the art of making traditional figures of sugar and papier maché. The pre-recorded event takes place online and is free to the public.
National Portrait Gallery
On Monday 1 November from 6.30 pm to 8.30 pm, the National Portrait Gallery will celebrate Día de los Muertos with an outdoor festival of music and art. The museum will create a common altar on the museum’s steps, inviting visitors to discover more about the history behind the celebration. Several artists will project a live digital painting, video and audio performance to honor the Latino community in DC. The event is free to the public.
Smithsonian American Art Museum
The Smithsonian American Art Museum will host an online Día de los Muertos celebration on October 30 from 10 to 11. The event will feature a virtual performance by Ballet Folklórico Mi Herencia Mexicana, demonstrating several Mexican folk dances. The event is free, but registration is required via Eventbrite.
5th annual Day of the Dead Benefit Festival
On November 6, Día de los Muertos DC will host its 5th annual Día de los Muertos Benefit Festival in the National Mall. The festival will be from kl. 10.00 to kl. 12.00 and will include art, music, an altar, a parade as well as several Catrinas, Lady of the Dead. The event is free, but registration is encouraged.
Day of the Dead Fest
The Catholic University of America is hosting a Día de los Muertos Fest on November 6 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. The festival aims to honor the richness of Mexican culture and its traditions. It will offer various activities for children and adults, including live mariachis, an altar, dancing and more. Generally there is free admission, but tickets are required. If you are interested in attending the altar or buying a children’s package that includes face paint and a craft kit, tickets cost $ 15 to $ 20.