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Understanding Día de los Muertos

Understanding Día de los Muertos

Celebrating life by remembering the dead.

While many cultures view death with tragic despair, Día de los Muertos is a celebration of life, spent with loved ones. With romantic displays of colored cut-outs, marigolds, painted calaveras, and the sounds of joy and laughter in the air, families memorialize deceased loved ones on this special holiday shrouded in the joys of celebrating the present, by remembering the dead.

Depicted in Disney’s popular hit Coco, Day of the Dead is a holiday of celebration in Mexico and other parts of Latin America, that commemorates loved ones lost. While Coco puts a mystic and animated twist on the holiday, one thing remains- Día de los Muertos is a time to celebrate life, love, and family!

Gathering At The Grave

Observed on November 1st & 2nd, families, friends, and individuals remember their loved ones by gathering together and visiting gravesides to polish the final resting place of the deceased. By brushing away the debris and decorating graves with dramatic displays of candles and marigolds, families light the way for visiting souls and draw them in with the sweet fragrance of cempasúchil flower or flores de muerto.

Food & Drink

Whether picnicking at the graveside, sharing a meal at home, or both, food and drinks play an important and symbolic role in Día de los Muertos. While many families enjoy the day by savoring the favorite foods of their loved ones passed, there are a few special foods and drinks that are a staple to the holiday. 


  • Pan de Muerto– The pan de muerto is dusted in sugar and placed at the altar to feed hungry souls after their strenuous journey back from the afterlife–this sweet bread is a crucial element of the holiday! 


  • Sugar Skulls– The most iconic symbol of the holiday is brightly colored skulls, calaveras, that represent the deceased. Typically, made from sugar, these vibrant and edible skulls are a memorable component of the holiday and popularized as souvenirs throughout Mexico. 


  • Tequila Water, tequila, and other beverages are not only shared by family during the holiday, but can be placed at the altar to quench the thirst of spirits visiting from the afterlife and prepare them for the long journey ahead. 

Meaning of Altars

Altars, or ofrendas, are the most important aspect of Day of the Dead. The purpose of the altar is to invite deceased loved ones to cross over from the afterlife and join the family table. By adding a photograph of the deceased as a centerpiece of the ofrenda, spirits are enabled passage, if only for a night.


While altars are a vibrant display that can draw in tourists, they have significant, symbolic meaning and should be recognized and celebrated with the utmost respect for the traditions of Día de los Muertos and its observers.

Día de los Muertos in Tulum

Much like in the rest of the country, Día de los Muertos is a sacred time of gathering for families in Tulum. If you’re present during this special holiday, you will have the opportunity to witness this joyous event. 

From families visiting loved ones in cemeteries to music, food, joy, and activities, Tulum lacks no options in experiencing this extraordinary holiday to its fullest. However, it’s important to note that Day of the Dead is a sacred time and should be observed with the utmost respect. 

Day of the Dead at La Zebra

With an ofrenda that embodies the traditions and significance of Day of the Dead, La Zebra will commemorate the holiday for guests to experience the importance and beauty of this sacred day. Serving guests with a special menu packed full of delicious, traditional Mexican dishes, La Zebra is celebrating Día de los Muertos with a menu worth coming back from the dead for—come join us! 

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