Guatemalan Festival - The Day of the Dead

How the The Day of the Dead is Celebrated in Guatemala

Marina K. Villatoro

The Day of the Dead is a celebration that takes place every year on the 1st of November. It might sound a bit weird but the main idea behind it is actually really sweet. It is a day when Guatemalans remember their dead loved ones and celebrate that they were able to meet them or to be part of their family. It is believed that the souls of all of the people that have passed away return to Earth to check up on their families during this day.


There are many traditions and legends attached to this celebration, plus there are a few different things that people do to commemorate their dead loved ones. 

Visit the Cemetery

This one is perhaps the most popular among locals, To visit the cemeteries. Some stick to putting flowers on the mausoleums and saying a prayer for the soul of their loved ones. But there are families that take it to the next level. They pack up all of their food, get their best clothes on and head on over to the cemetery to spend the whole day and night “visiting” those who have left.

Tradition says that a plate must also be served to the one you are visiting. As the night comes, it turns into a big party where the living celebrates with the dead. 

When it is finally time to go to bed everyone must be careful. There can be no reservoirs with water hanging around the house and all candles must be off. Spirits often come in the form of moths that can die in water or fire.

If they do, they might not come back next year. 

Kite Festival

Another popular tradition that takes place during the Day of the Dead is the Kite Festival. It consists of a big, open space where people gather to show off their kites, lift them up and make them compete. What makes it unique is the size of the kites.

They are huge! People spend all year long building them and coming up with the design which also has some sort of message hidden.

There are a few of these held in the country but the most popular one takes place in a town called Sumpango. There you can also find tons of vendors offering all sorts of local dishes. 

Traditional Food

If you have ever participated in festivals from any other corner of the world, you know that they are always linked to at least one dish that is made only during that time of the year. The Day of the Dead in Guatemala is no exception. 

A large percentage of the Guatemala traditional dishes are some variation of a stew, prepared with tons of spices. But in this case, they prepare something different, a cold dish called Fiambre. It is a weird and hearty dish with an interesting taste. It is made with a bunch of different veggies, with poultry, beef pork, fish in some cases a few kinds of cheese and a sour kind of dressing.  

It is definitely not for everyone, but I do recommend at least trying it. 

There is also the religious aspect of it. Every religion has its own way of celebrating it, some with religious services and some with processions. 

If you are in or near Guatemala during this time of the year I highly recommend participating in one or all of these traditions.

I am sure that you will have fun.