Many American cities host Day of the Dead celebrations from places you expect, like Tucson and Los Angeles, to those you might not, like Missoula and Boston.
Chicago is home to one of the oldest Day of the Dead celebrations, sponsored by the National Museum of Mexican Art. The museum transforms into a work of art via projection systems and there’s face painting, art activities, altar demonstrations, music, and more! Additionally, you can submit photos of your deceased loved ones to be projected onto the museum.
Los Angeles, CA
Los Angeles has a large Hispanic population and there are big celebrations throughout the city. Olvera Street in downtown is home to a historic Mexican marketplace, so it’s no surprise that a week-long festival takes place there each year. There are children’s crafts, candlelit processionals, altar displays, music and dance, and even ceremonial cleansings and blessings. Be sure to check out Hollywood Forever Cemetery too! They have the usual procession, performances from Grammy award-winning musicians, hundreds of altars, hundreds of Aztec dancers, costume contests, children’s projects, food, and so much more!
New York City, NY,
On the other coast, New York City non-profit Mano a Mano hosts an event full of Mexican folk art, food, live music, and more. There are workshops for things like making paper flowers and buttons to remember loved ones. The public helps set up the altar and on the final day they assist with taking it down too, as items are shared with the public. Last year, the Cake Boss team even came out for the cake offering on the first night.
Tucson goes all out for Day of the Dead. It all starts weeks beforehand with classes on everything from puppet making to stilt-walking. The city’s cemeteries are tinted orange with all the marigolds laid over the graves of loved ones. Folk art created by local students is on display. The legendary El Tiradito shrine is a must see. Saturday is when the real celebration begins. There is a special procession for children where they can make their own wings for the parade. In the evening, the Grand Procession stretches on for blocks and blocks.
Missoula is quite close to the border. The Canadian border. None-the-less, in 2017, they held their 25th annual Festival of the Dead. It’s already a creative, bohemian town, now just envision it filled with the color and liveliness of a Day of the Dead festival.
The entire month of October is filled with workshops and art shows and film screenings. Imagine joining a shrine building workshop or a “Build your own urn” class and then watching a classic film like Harold and Maude in a theater that opened in 1937.
Capitol Square in East Arlington, just outside of Boston, hosts a Día de los Muertos Fiesta on November 1st. This event is a celebration of the arts all along Mass Ave with Mexican food, fun, and music. In past years they’ve had special treats like Mexican chocolate whoopie pies from Chef Ava Vatsky, a handmade memory altar from Mexican-American artist/musician D. Oraxana, and Tazo Mexican chocolate tastings.
Next week will be the ultimate, celebrating Día de Muertos in Mexico! There is one area with so much history and tradition that it is THE place to be for the holiday. I can’t wait to tell you all about it!