Are you familiar with Day of the Dead? Also known as Dia de los Muertos, this long-standing Mexican tradition is two-day celebration held on November 1st and 2nd each year. It is a time to remember and joyously celebrate the dearly departed in a lively, festive way. Families create special altars to honor and remember their loved ones. In addition to placing the deceased’s favorite things on the altar, items such as sugar skulls (las calaveras de azúcar), yellow marigold flowers, and candles are also displayed. If you are in San Diego, a visit to Old Town is the go-to destination for Dia de los Muertos. Let’s take a closer look at celebrating Day of the Dead in Old Town San Diego.
This year, Old Town San Diego is celebrating Dia de los Muertos over the weekend of October 28 – 29 and the traditional days of November 1 – 2. All the events are within the Old Town State Historic Park, with many of the festivities taking place at Fiesta de Reyes, and are free to attend. Check the official schedule of events for all the details of this family-friendly celebration.
Happy skulls (calaveras) and skeletons (calacas) are the key symbols of Day of the Dead. I visited Old Town this week and got a sneak peek at some of the colorful and joyful displays.
Day of the Dead has been celebrated in Old Town San Diego for over 200 years. In 1800s Old Town, Day of the Dead was a quieter occasion than it is today. People dressed in black and walked slowly and quietly from the chapel to the cemetery with lighted candles to honor the dead. Today in Old Town, people still remember the dearly departed by building altars to honor them. Here’s what you need to know if you plan on visiting Old Town for Day of the Dead this year on October 28-29 and November 1-2, 2017.
Old Town State Park Event hours:
- Sat. (10/28) – Noon to 9 p.m.
- Sun. (10/29) – Noon to 6 p.m.
- Wed. (11/1) – Until 10 p.m. in Fiesta de Reyes
- Thu. (11/2) – Noon to 9 p.m.
Fiesta de Reyes gates and restaurant hours:
- Sat. (10/28) 10 a.m. – 11 p.m.,
- Sun. (10/29) 9 a.m. – 10p.m.,
- Wed. (11/1) 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.,
- Thu. (11/2) 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
(Live entertainment until closing each day.)
The annual Day of the Dead event will conclude with the traditional candlelight procession on November 2nd starting at 6:00 p.m., beginning at the entrance of the Old Town State Historic Park, located at the intersection of San Diego Avenue and Twiggs Street. The procession will travel down San Diego Avenue to El Campo Santo Cemetery. To participate, gather between 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. at the Old Town entrance (Twigg St. and San Diego Ave.). Many Old Town restaurants, businesses, museums, and shops will be creating over 50 traditional and contemporary Dia de los Muertos altars. Unique altars will honor historic Old Town figures, as well as more current stories. A public altar will also be located in El Campo Santo Cemetery where visitors are encouraged to add their own mementos, photos, and written tributes to loved ones.
During the celebration, many Old Town restaurants will be providing special Dia de los Muertos menus and live music, along with activities for the entire family, including traditional face painting, mask making, and many more. For more information about celebrating Day of the Dead in Old Town, visit the official website and the Fiesta de Reyes website.
If you are not in San Diego and would like to celebrate Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) with your family, here are some ideas for celebrating, including some Dia de los Muertos party ideas, foods, and coloring sheets.
How do you honor departed loved ones?
Does your family celebrate Day of the Dead?
Looking forward to hearing from you in the comments!
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