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Gorgeous Ghouls

Sugar skulls and marigolds abound at these local Day of the Dead celebrations.


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Photo courtesy of Amy Covington/Stocksy United

Día de los Muertos may be all about honoring departed loved ones, but this festive affair is anything but somber. The awe-inspiring Mexican holiday features colorful processions with enormous skeleton floats, pulsating music, and thousands of people wearing traditional regalia and face paint. But you don’t have to travel to Mexico to partake in this mystical celebration. Instead, visit three East Bay locales for vibrant Day of the Dead festivities.

Día de los Muertos Festival, Oakland
This lively celebration in Oakland’s Fruitvale neighborhood draws more than 70,000 people annually—and for good reason. Now in its 22nd year, the Día de Los Muertos Festival is quite the party, featuring infectious Latin tunes, Aztec dancers, 160 vendors selling mouthwatering bites and handcrafted artisan wares, and more. Most exciting of all, festivalgoers will be treated to a prescreening of Pixar’s Coco, which follows a young Mexican boy as he travels to the Land of the Dead. October 29, 10 a.m.–4 p.m., free entry, unitycouncil.org/dia-de-los-muertos.

Día de los Muertos Festival, Uptown Oakland
Oakland’s acclaimed Calavera restaurant will host its third annual multiday fest to honor the Mexican holiday, offering a rotating menu of special dishes that highlight heirloom corn. There will also be inventive cocteles crafted with ancestral ingredients such as apples, honey, epazote, and plátanos. As diners sip and savor, they can admire the marigold decorations and altars adorned with candles, photographs, and mezcal. This year’s altars will pay homage to the late Mexican comic Cantinflas, whose films will be shown nightly during the festivities. October 26, October 31, and November 1; calaveraoakland.com.

Día de los Muertos Celebration, Berkeley
Shattuck Avenue in downtown Berkeley will come alive with colorful ofrendas (altars), musical performances, and festive dancing during the seventh annual Día de los Muertos Celebration. The family-friendly fiesta also offers delectable cuisine from a variety of Bay Area food vendors as well as boozy refreshments in the wine and beer garden. Attendees can have their faces painted, decorate sugar skulls, and join the Cuauhtli Mitotiani Mexica dancers as they bless the altars and lead a candlelight procession along a path of strewn marigold petals. November 2, 5–10 p.m., free entry, anotherbullwinkelshow.com/day-of-dead.

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