Honor the dead with traditional dishes, ofrendas, music and more at these Dia de los Muertos celebrations in L.A.
Dia de los Muertos—the Day of the Dead—is a holiday that dates back to the sixteenth century with ties that can be traced back to the Aztec people of Mexico. It’s a celebration that pays tribute to those who have passed but unlike the typical somber, all-black days of mourning we’re used to, these consist of joyful and vibrant festivities.
The lives of the dearly departed are commemorated with parties, food, processions and colorful displays. While it’s usually observed on November 1 and 2 ( to align with the minor Catholic holidays All Saints Day and All Souls Day), here in L.A. the bright ofrendas (artistic shrines consisting of photos, candles, decorations and traditional motifs) begin to appear across the city from October 22.
How Dia De Los Muertos Is Celebrated
Culturally, death is considered to be just another part of the human experience. Thus, it’s a day filled with cheer where the dead are awakened from their eternal slumber to commune with the living to enjoy everything they loved while living. This is why Dia de los Muertos decorations feature skulls, also known as calacas and calaveras seen with happy expressions partaking in lively activties.
Around the altars erected, you’ll likely notice a sea of orange or yellow cempasúchil flowers (Marigolds). Their strong scent and color are believed to guide the souls to their shrines where offerings of tamales, chilis, water, tequila and pan de muerto are placed amongst the personal mementos and anecdotes dedicated to those who have passed.
The occasion has evolved and is observed in various ways throughout L.A. Here are some of the best celebrations and displays happening for Dia De Los Muertos in L.A.:
1. Grand Park’s Downtown Dia De Los Muertos Celebrations
Stroll through Grand Park’s 12-day public art installation with 20 altars made by professional artists and community organizations, starting from October 22 through November 2, 2021. This is Grand Park’s Downtown ninth annual Día de los Muertos celebration, featuring the main community altar created by 2018 NEA National Heritage Fellow Ofelia Esparza. Find out more here.
Location: Grand Park, 200 N Grand Ave, Los Angeles