If you have the opportunity to spend one week out of the entire year in Mexico, center your visit around Halloween and Día de Muertos (in the U.S., we typically refer to it as ‘Día de los Muertos’) in Mexico City – you won’t regret it. Not only will you have the opportunity to immerse yourself in centuries of Central American culture on Day of the Dead, you’ll also be able to see how the Mexican people celebrate a traditionally American holiday. Oh, and let’s not forget the spectacle that is the Formula 1 Gran Premio de Mexico™, which takes place on the weekend of both Halloween and Día de Muertos within Mexico City.
While Halloween is more of an American tradition, you’ll find that a number of people celebrate this holiday in Mexico these days – just be forewarned that a small contingent of folks considers Halloween to be downright contemptuous. Even so, children can be seen traveling door to door shouting “¡Queremos Halloween!” (“We want Halloween!”), and you’ll find many stores that carry decorations, toys, and candy for the holiday.
If you’re looking for spots to celebrate Halloween after dark in Mexico City, you won’t have to look too far. Check out Mundana, a nightclub conveniently located at Alameda Central, or the rooftop bar of Hotel Downtown on Isabel de la Católica – just a short walk from El Zocalo Square.
Halloween is focused on horror, the grotesque, and Americans’ inescapable fear of death. Día de Muertos, on the other hand, is a reflective holiday – while it’s typically regarded as a celebration of life with many sharing fond memories of loved ones, it does so with a reverent tone.
Día de Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is arguably Mexico’s biggest public holiday. It’s held over the course of two days and is intended to be a respectful remembrance of the departed. While other cultures might consider it macabre, it’s actually a meaningful and tasteful tribute to those who have passed on. Families create private altars, or ofrendas, which are decorated with marigolds, sugar skulls, and favorite foods of the deceased. They’ll also hold candle-lit vigils all night to honor the dead, oftentimes at their own gravesites.
The holiday dates back to the pre-Columbian era and was celebrated by the indigenous people of central Mexico. Its modern meaning is derived from the Aztec belief that for one day each year, the dead return to earth – hence why you’ll see locals leaving food, drinks, and makeshift beds (spirits will be tired when they arrive) at gravesites. The holiday has evolved and changed over the centuries, and today, festivals and parades are held as community-wide celebrations on these days.
Mexico City’s annual Day of the Dead processional, a loud, colorful parade, actually shuts the city down. You’ll be surrounded by painted faces, faux skeletons, mariachi tunes, and marigolds – death will never seem more lively than it does here. An important tip: Don’t wear your Halloween costume on the Day of the Dead. At best, it’s tacky, but at worst, it may be considered culturally insensitive by locals. Many don’t even dress up, but you’re likely to spot skeletons, faces painted to resemble sugar skulls, and clothing representative of a fancy, old-world style. You won’t find this beautiful, decadent atmosphere anywhere else.
The Mexican Grand Prix
Like Día de Muertos, this Formula 1™ fan favorite has a lengthy history and has seen its own modernization in recent years. The Gran Premio de Mexico has been held on Halloween / Día de Muertos weekend since its big comeback in 2015, and this year, the big race will take place on October 30th – the day before Halloween.
Need more reasons to add this race to your itinerary? Mexico City has the highest altitude of any locale on the F1™ calendar – by far – at 7,380 feet above sea level. The thinner air places additional strain on engines, causing energy recovery and recirculation to be huge points of contention. 2016 also sees the addition of another Mexican national racing in Formula 1 – Esteban Gutiérrez. When a Mexican driver makes it to the podium, the crowd erupts. Just ask F1 veteran and Mexican national Sergio ‘Checo’ Pérez – he gets his biggest rounds of applause at this circuit.
Is there a better way to kick off your celebration of Halloween and Day of the Dead than to celebrate Mexican nationalism? We think not. With Gran Premio de Mexico VIP, you won’t just be up close and personal with all the race day excitement – you’ll also get exclusive access to behind-the-scenes action, all-inclusive hospitality, celebrity meet-and-greets, and so much more!
All non-racing images courtesy of Pixabay.