Holidays

The World's Best Costume Parties

by Sarah Gold

Día de los Muertos, Oaxaca, Mexico

What it is: A celebration of death—but not in a creepy way. The festival honors departed loved ones.

Party time: October 31, the same as Halloween. But "Day of the Dead" is a misnomer—it's actually a three-day event.

The getup: Something out of a Tim Burton movie. Most participants do their faces up like calaveras, or skulls—painted white, with dark eye circles and grinning rows of teeth. It can be a little spooky, especially on the kids, who look like baby ghouls.

Where it's at: Everywhere in Mexico; even in tiny villages, residents turn out for processions and vigils at their local cementerios. But Oaxaca City turns the Day of the Dead into a full-scale shindig: The cemeteries of San Miguel and San Antonino are packed, for a change, with the living.

What goes down: Families make altars at home and say prayers for the dead. Then on November 2, there are parades to the cemeteries, where bands play and graves are decorated with flowers and special foods like pan de muerto (bread loaves in the shape of skulls). Bottles of mescal are passed around, but the partying is civilized; this is a holiday for paying respects.

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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