Every year, the creepy yet cheerful Festival de Tradiciones de Vida y Muerte ("Festival of Life and Death Traditions") at Xcaret is the biggest celebration of Dia de Muertos ("Day of the Dead") and Hanal Pixan ("Food of Souls," the Mayan version) in the Cancun area.
The festival will take place this year Thursday, Oct. 30, through Sunday, Nov. 2, from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. each day. Each year, a different Mexican state is highlighted, and this year Michoacan has been chosen. Local Mayan communities from Quintana Roo and Yucatan and Xcaret's artistic community will play a prominent role in the event as well.
Some 250 exhibits include theater productions; musical, dance and multidisciplinary performances; audiovisual presentations; a mass; a children's pavilion; expositions; exhibitions; a parade (Oct. 29 at 6:00 p.m. on 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen); and, of course, delicious traditional Mexican food.
At this year's Festival of Life and Death Traditions, you might see the Baile de los Viejitos ("Dance of the Little Old Men"), a traditional folk dance from the Mexican state of Michoacan — Photo courtesy of Xcaret
Dia de Muertos and Hanal Pixan are Mexican holidays during which loved ones who have passed on are remembered. Traditional ways to celebrate include constructing an altar that includes, among many other items, candles, sugar skulls, photos of the deceased and the official Day of the Dead flowers, marigolds.
Families also visit the cemeteries where their loved ones were laid to rest, and they decorate the graves and often spend the night there, waiting for a visit from the deceased. The festival showcases many different types of altars, and Xcaret's cemetary is decorated in the traditional manner.
"La Catrina" is an icon of the Day of the Dead holiday — Photo courtesy of Xcaret
Each year, prominent Mexican artists participate. This year there will be two keynote events: Entre Tumbas, Vivos y Muertos ("Among Tombs, the Living and the Dead"), a play featuring actor Ignacio López Tarso, and ¿En qué Quedamos Pelona? ("In reference to 'Lady Death'"), a concert by Fernando de la Mora, one of the best-known Mexican opera singers in the world.
There's also a photography contest that produces breathtaking images of the event.
Xcaret is located just south of Playa del Carmen, about one hour south of Cancun. Xcaret tours include transportation, or there are ADO buses that go directly to Xcaret from Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Renting a car or taking a taxi are other options.
There are many different types of altars on display at the festival — Photo courtesy of Xcaret
If you visit Xcaret Park from Oct. 30 to Nov. 2, your admission includes the Festival of Life and Death Traditions activities. A preferential admission option is also available, with which you can enter the festival from 4:00 p.m. and acquire reserve seats at the main events of the day.