Dia de los Muertos @ Desert Botanical Garden
Photo by Adam Rodriquez, courtesy of Desert Botanical Garden

Dia de Muertos (also Dia de los Muertos), or Day of the Dead, exists to honor relatives and friends who are no longer with us. The three-day celebration grew out of a month-long Aztez festival that originally took place in August. However, it eventually moved to October 31, November 1 and November 2 to coincide with the Christian Allhallowtide celebrations.

Traditions included in the Day of the Dead include visiting graves of family members to tidy them and leave small altars called “ofrendas.” Offering of marigolds, personal possessions of the departed, poems, foods, toy (for children) or alcohol (for adults) are left at the altars to draw the spirits of the dead where they can hear the prayers and words of the living. Other traditions include calaveras makeup — skull-like face painting — or masks, stilt walkers, sugar or chocolate skulls, and La Prócesion — a parade to various burial sites.

Owing to its strong Mexican culture, the Valley of the Sun sees multiple Dia de los Muertos celebrations toward the end of October. Here we rounded up the three largest.

Dia de los Muertos Festival

Celebrate “The Day of The Dead” at Mesa Arts Center on Saturday and Sunday, October 22 and 23. You will enjoy live traditional Mexican music and dances from top groups in the Valley including Mariachi Corzon de Phoenix and Ballet Folklorico Amistad.

In addition, shop a mercado with jewelry, arts and crafts, and other merchandise from local artisans and vendors. Other sights include the Taylor Family Troupe Stilt Walkers who will roam the festival.

Location: Mesa Arts Center, One E. Main St., Mesa, AZ 85201
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, October 22 and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, October 23
Cost: Free
Website: www.mesaartscenter.com

Dia de los Muertos PHX Festival

Gather at Steele Indian School Park on Sunday, October 23 for a day of celebrating the dead in the older Aztec tradition. The day starts with an Aztec dance blessing and continues with choirs singing ancestral chants, dances from Primavera Ballet Folklórico and other groups, dancing dragons, and other traditional entertainment.

In addition,you will enjoy mask making, a musical petting zoo, face painting, an artist mercado, a traditional La Procesión and more.

Location: Steele Indian School Park, 300 E Indian School Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85012
Hours: noon to 6 p.m., Sunday, October 23
Cost: Free
Website: diadelosmuertosphx.com

Dia de los Muertos at Desert Botanical Garden

Celebrate the Day of the Dead at the Desert Botanical Garden with music, dance and storytelling about the history and meaning of Dia de los Muertos. A community altar will be on hand so you can leave paper flowers and notes to departed loved ones.

Wander the “Ofrenda” exhibit, which sees local artists create their own altars, or visit El Mercado where artists and vendors will sell artwork and traditional food. Then finish each day with a La Procesión around the garden.

Location: Desert Botanical Garden, 1201 N. Galvin Pkwy., Phoenix, AZ 85008
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, October 29 and 30
Cost: Regular Garden admission. $22 for adults, $20 for seniors, $12 for students (13-18 or college ID) and $10 for children 3 to 12.
Website: www.dbg.org

Dia de los Muertors isn’t the only major event going on at the end of October.

Learn about farms that host fun festivals to celebrate the harvest season.

Get your adrenaline pumping with haunted houses and scary events in the Valley.

Want even more? See plenty of other events going on around Phoenix.

– Justin Ferris, Phoenix.org