Day of the Dead / El Dia de los Muertos

El Día de los Muertos Celebrations in the Phoenix Area

El Dia de los Muertos
Courtesy Mesa Arts Center

The Day of the Dead is not at all like Halloween. The two days that comprise the Day of the Dead celebration are actually public holidays in Mexico. It is not surprising, then, that since a significant number of people from Mexico and with ancestors from Mexico live in Arizona, that it is a popular celebration here.

The Arizona Museum of Natural History provided this explanation of El Día de los Muertos, or, in English, Day of the Dead:

  • The Day of the Dead is a ritual the indigenous people of Mexico have been practicing for more than 3,000 years. It is still celebrated in Mexico as well as certain parts of the United States and Central America. Native Aztecs and other Meso-American civilizations viewed death as the continuation of life rather than the end.

    In the United States and certain parts of Mexico, it is traditional for families to build in-home altars dedicated to the dead. They place flowers, food, pictures of the deceased and lighted candles around the altars.
  • Many Valley cities host Day of the Dead celebrations each year on the first two days of November. People will sometimes don wooden skull masks and dance to honor deceased loved ones. The wooden skulls, or calacas, are also placed on altars. A relative or a friend often eats sugar skulls, bearing the name of the dead person on the forehead.

Day of the Dead Celebrations/Exhibits in the Phoenix Area

All dates, times, prices and offerings are subject to change without notice.

Check the calendar for the Phoenix Public Libraries for crafts, alter displays and other special activities relating to El Día de los Muertos.

-   -   -   -   -   -

Ofrenda at Desert Botanical Garden
The altars are original pieces specifically created for this celebration by local artists.

Included with garden admission. Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix.

-   -   -   -   -   -

Dia de los Muertos Festival
An artist Mercado held toward the end of October showcasing an assortment of traditional and contemporary merchandise, jewelry, and arts and crafts. Live artist demonstrations, live traditional music and dance, sugar skull making. Procession and community altar. Free admission.  Mesa Arts Center.

-   -   -   -   -   -

Día de los Muertos Festival/Phx
Masked entertainers and musicians will entertain with performances in music, dance and theater to honor our ancestors and celebrate our heritage and traditions. A gathering of artists and families. Food available to purchase. Usually the last weekend in October. Free admission. Steele Indian School Park, Phoenix

-   -   -   -   -   -

Day of the Dead Bread
Day of the Dead bread is offered at more than 40 Food City bakeries across Arizona. This eerie, creative looking bread is being sold in family-size packages at Food City stores toward the end of October.

-   -   -   -   -   -

Celebrating Day of the Dead at Home?

Why not combine a baking activity! Check out this amazing recipe for Day of the Dead Cupcakes from the District American Kitchen & Wine Bar in Phoenix.

These Sweet Spirit of the Afterlife Cupcakes were inspired by the Día de los Muertos or Day of the Dead holiday tradition. 

What It Takes
Devil’s Food cup cake (ingredients and recipe below)
gum paste hand painted masks
edible luster powder paint
gum paste flowers
pulled sugar wisps

Devil’s Food Cupcake Ingredients
1/3 cup butter
½ cup sugar
3 eggs, well-beaten
2/3 cup cocoa
½ cup hot water
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup thick sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla

Toffee Butterscotch Chocolate Filling Ingredients
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cups butterscotch chips
2 cups heavy cream
Vanilla to taste
½ cup Heath bar crumbs

Cinnamon Marshmallow Frosting Ingredients
2 cups unsalted butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup marshmallow fluff
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Devil’s Food Cupcake Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a cupcake pan with liners. Set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar well. Add the well-beaten eggs.
3. In a small bowl, beat the cocoa with the hot water until smooth. Add to the creamed mixture.
4. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Add to the sugar mixture alternately with the sour cream. Add the vanilla and beat the mixture well.
5. Bake for about 13 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool on wire racks.

Toffee Butterscotch Chocolate Filling Preparation

1. Measure the heavy cream into a small sauce pot and bring to a boil.
2. While cream is heating, measure out semisweet chocolate and butterscotch chips and set aside.
3. Once the cream comes to a boil pour it over the chocolate, add some vanilla and stir until all the chocolate is melted. Set aside to cool.
4. Once the filling has cooled fold in the Heath bar crumbs.
5. Scoop a small hole in the center of each cup cake and fill with the chocolate butterscotch filling.

Cinnamon Marshmallow Frosting Preparation

1. In a mixer add the butter, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and salt.
2. Whip till smooth and fluffy.
3. Add the marshmallow fluff and whip for an additional 30 seconds, until everything is combined.
4. Pipe onto filled cupcakes and decorate as desired.