Thousands of years ago, honoring and celebrating the dead was an integral part of Aztec, Mayan, and Toltec cultures. Today, that tradition includes the annual Dia de los Muertos (or Day of the Dead) celebration on November 2. It originated in Mexico, but the holiday is celebrated in the U.S. and several other countries.
Dia de los Muertos honors those who’ve passed away, including family, friends, and others who’ve made significant cultural contributions. Often, it’s celebrated with music and dance, as well as ofrendas (or altars) created in homes and community settings.
Here in metro Phoenix, celebrations range from festivals to exhibitions. Here’s a look at 10 ways you can commemorate Dia de los Muertos around the Valley.
“Our Stories Live On”
The Gallery at Appaloosa Library
Through Thursday, November 30
Cultural Coalition presents a free "Our Stories Live On: Dia de los Muertos Community Altars" exhibition, featuring altars made by more than a dozen community members.
Dia de los Muertos Altar Exhibit
Desert Broom Library
Through Thursday, November 9
Phoenix Public Library is presenting a curated exhibition of Dia de los Muertos altars that honor influential writers.
Opens Friday, October 27
Desert Botanical Garden
Explore ofrendas created by Arizona artists from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, October 27, and Saturday, October 28. The exhibition continues 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Sunday, October 29, to Tuesday, November 7. Garden festivities also include live entertainment, a community altar, an artisan market, and a procession. Dates and hours vary for these activities, which are free with garden admission ($24.95 for adults).
Spirits Connect: Dia de los Muertos Festival
Saturday, October 28, and Sunday, October 29
Mesa Arts Center
Experience more than a dozen performances, as well as artist-made altars, an artisan mercado, family activities, and a community altar during this free celebration happening throughout the Mesa Arts Center campus.
Dia de los Muertos Procession
Saturday, October 28
Azukar Coffee and The Sagrado Galleria
Starting at 4 p.m., artists well be doing traditional face painting. Join artists and community members for a traditional Dia de los Muertos procession, which begins at 6 p.m. at Akukar Coffee. The procession along Central Avenue will end at The Sagrado Galleria, where the free closing reception for its “Vida Sagrada” exhibit runs until 10 p.m.
Dia de los Muertos PHX Festival
Sunday, October 29
Steele Indian School Park
Experience art, music, dance, and ceremony as Cultural Coalition presents its festival from noon to 6 p.m., which includes a community altar honoring Pete Garcia, who served as executive director for Chicanos Por La Causa. Admission is free, but organizers invite people to bring donations of nonperishable food.
Dia de los Muertos Exhibit
Opens Thursday, November 2
Wilde Meyer Gallery
Wilde Meyer Gallery presents a free exhibition celebrating beloved animal companions who’ve passed away. It will include a community altar with photocopies of pet pictures shared by community members. The opening reception runs from 7 to 9 p.m. on November 2, and the show runs through Monday, November 13.
Scottsdale Dia de los Muertos 2017
Thursday, November 2
Old Adobe Mission
Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Scottsdale is holding a free celebration that includes traditional food, family activities, music, dance, sculptural works, and an interactive community altar. The Noche de Ofrendas (Evening of Offerings) takes place 4 to 10 p.m. Art exhibits continue 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. through Sunday, November 5.
Dia de los Muertos Exhibit
Opens Friday, November 3
Arizona Latino Arts and Culture
Arizona Latino Arts and Cultural Center celebrates during a free opening reception for its Dia de los Muertos exhibit, which includes artisan booths, music, dance, fashion, and a Catrina and Catrin contest. The opening happens 6 to 10 p.m., and the exhibit continues through Friday, December 29.
Dia de los Muertos Festival
Sunday, November 5
St. Mary’s Basilica
St. Mary's Basilica and Xico Arte y Cultura present a celebration that includes traditional and youth processions, art activities and vendors, a car show, and live performances. The free festival takes place 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and includes a procession that starts at 12:30 p.m.