Dias De Los Muertos,
and Thai Loy Krathong
DAYS OF THE DEAD
1st and 2nd of November mark entertaining and vibrant, but at the same time personal and special days for Mexicans – Dias De Los Muertos. This November travel idea is on the bucket list of so many people, and here are few details that will help you you with your perfect Days of the Dead adventure.
For millions of tourists it is time to catch unforgettable photo moments, stare at festive ornaments, promenade in the streets with their faces Calavera-painted, taste traditional sweet Pan de Muerto and sugar skulls and just be part of the excited crowd (no finger-pointing here, we are tourists ourselves and we did exactly the same). But for Mexicans it is a time to remember that love is stronger than death. It is a chance, if only for one night, to reunite with loved and missed ones who passed away
In every house, hotel, cafe and even office you will find a lovingly decorated altars with photos of commemorated, with their favourite food and drinks, books, crafts or anything that represented their earthly passions. Same as altars, cemeteries are decorated with garlands of marigolds, skeletons and skulls, candles, fruits, beadworks. Cemeteries are all-night vigil, relatives and friends stay by the graves till sunrise. In many cities local artists also create massive carpets – tapetes – made of flowers and coloured sand and commonly placed next to each other right in the middle of the street
Dias De Los Muertos is a nationwide celebration, however there are few places that are specifically favoured by tourists for their unique indigenous celebrations:
Motley colonial Oxaca – cultural and culinary gem. Most of events here will be bubbling around historic city centre, main street – Calle Alcalá – and of course main cemetery – Panteon San Miguel
Off beat Chiapas – home to famous Palenque and endless lush jungles abundaning with wildlife. Here you should head to the countryside like charming towns of San Juan Chamula or San Cristóbal for the most indigenous festive traditions
Janitzio – tiny inhabited island in the middle of the lake and an epicentre of Mexican Dias de Los Muertos celebrations that attracts thousands of visitors each year on the night of the event. Janitzio is world famous for its beautiful Panteon (cemetery), butterfly fishermen display and narrow stairs-streets that take you to up the steep hills to the monument of José Maria Morelos. Each street is an endless line of traditional shop fronts . And each shop is also a dwelling for local family. You can get to the island by boat from a picturesque small town called Patzcuaro (that shares it’s name with the lake)
We went to Janitzio on the night of the 2nd of November last year and it felt like there is no more populated place on both American continents than Patzcuaro harbour. One could probably see this Calaca army from space! We arrived there quite late, almost at sunset, spent a couple of amusing hours queuing for the tickets for the boat (meanwhile eating and drinking delicious bits sold here and there, socializing with friendly locals and cheering with international crowd) and finally enjoyed our dark, chilly but fun boat ride followed by a few amazing, crazy hours on the island. You probably guessed already – it is crowded, it is very touristy, but overall joyful and unique experience
Moving from traditional to modern, spectacular parade in Mexico City is usually held on the Saturday preceding Dias De Los Muertos and is definitely worth mentioning, in particular as a curios example of a movie defining the history and not vice versa. CDMX Day of the Dead parade owes its birth to Spectre – the twenty-fourth film in the James Bond spy series. Believe it or not, astonishing parade pictured in the beginning of the movie was only a fruit of scenarists imagination (inspired by the extraordinary Mexican tradition of course) and never existed in reality. But the very next year CDMX authorities recognised enormous tourist demand for the imaginary event, and since then the parade is getting bigger and more impressive each year. It is still not at the scale presented in the movie, but well worth visiting if you are in the capital on those dates. Also the most creative decorations will be waiting for you at CDMX shop screens and public areas.
Hotels in most tourist places might be fully booked by the end of summer – there is some kind of Day of the Dead boom nowadays. But even if you don’t make it to any of the listed above – there are still so many hidden gems off the popular routes to discover. We cannot wait to get back one day for a totally different experience of the Day of the Dead, away from tourist crowds
The most famous young wine is corked on the third Thursday of November, which is going to be November the 21st in 2019
Frivolous but charming tradition to celebrate the arrival of a young wine of the year was originated in France in the 1950s, transformed a lot and gained enormous popularity since then. Most restaurants in France as well as probably all French restaurants abroad throw loud themed parties to celebrate the event, and those parties are great midweek fun, it feels like a New Year rehearsal indeed!
Wines are shipped round the world a few days before, but must be stored locked until 12:00 am on Thursday. When the clock strikes midnight, the bottles are opened and the wolrd stops in order to raise a glass of light, fresh and fruity drink.
To deeper immerse yourself into this fancy autumn tradition you can head to Lyon where celebrations start a few days prior to the wine release and culminate on Wednesday evening, when barrels of Beaujolais Nouveau are rolled by wine-growers through the centre before being opened
The biggest festival of course rolls out in Beaujeu, the capital of the Beaujolais region. People come from far and wide to see the bells ring for the new vintage at midnight, kicking off four days of partying and celebration
Curiously enough, Japan is world’s third largest Beaujolais consumer (after France itself and the US) and admiring those joyful wine baths it looks like Japanese surpassed Frenches in the art of Beaujolais Nouveau celebrations, what do you think?
If you plan to visit Thailand this November, there’s a fantastic event known as the Festival of Lights – Loy Krathong. The festival is held yearly on the full moon of the 12th month of the Thai lunar calendar and will take place on the 13th of November in 2019.
Loy Krathong translates as “to float a basket” and is named after special handcrafted woven baskets – “krathongs” – beautifully decorated with flowers, banana leaves, joss stick and candles and floated down many of Thailand’s waterways during warm nights of the celebrations. One can buy a krathong at pretty much any corner during the celebrations, and if you feel a spark of inspiration – you can even make your own
Festival lits up it’s lights all over Thailand, however certain places celebrate it at a much bigger scale
In beautiful Sukhothai most festivities happen around Sukhothai Historical Park and it’s famous lake. In addition to magical floating lights, there are beauty contest, parades, folk music performances and light and sound shows
Fascinating Chiang Mai is where Loy Krathong meets Yi Peng, a brother lantern festival. Capital of northern regions is known for its enchanting sky lanterns release that takes place on the second evening of celebrations from the banks of Ping river. And of course besides that each of the festival days will be special due to indigenous parades, firework display and art performances in public place
Bangkok has a busy schedule for the Loy Krathong festivities among lots of parks and waterways where Bangkokian come to celebrate with their families. You can find locals gathering at the Asiatique riverside market setting their decorated floats to sail. Other picture perfect places are sitting along the Chao Phraya River. Usually lighted up by a beading of illuminated barges and reflecting the lights of Wat Arun towering in the distance, on the days of Loy Krathong river becomes especially enchanting, it just shimmers in the darkness, mirroring sapphire, ruby and emerald lights scattered all over
Photo credits and copyrights: UpYourValley, Flickr