Crescent City's Celebrations of Life, Death, and Culture
New Orleans is a city known for jazz funerals, ghost tours, and elaborate and beautiful above-ground tombs in our cemeteries, so it should come as no surprise that the Day of the Dead is very popular here.
The Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday that originated from pre-Hispanic indigenous groups, including the Aztec, Toltec, and Nahua, who believed that death was simply a continuation of life and not something to be mourned but, instead, celebrated. The holiday is a fusion of these indigenous traditions with the Catholicism of Spanish conquistadors. Followers of this tradition believe that on this special day, the dead come back to visit the living. Many of those who celebrate Día de Los Muertos erect altars covered with the deceased's favorite foods, pan de muerto, flowers and photos, and drinks to welcome the dead back to the land of the living.
NOLA's Day of the Dead
New Orleans is a city known for how we celebrate life, even in the face of death. Our city's rich and diverse cultural heritage is influenced by African, French, Spanish, Native American, and Caribbean traditions, each blending to give rise to our unique way of honoring the departed. Our city has also long been connected to the Catholic church. As New Orleans draws such heavy historical and cultural influences from Catholicism, and Spanish and Native traditions, the Day of the Dead is widely celebrated across the city.
On November 1 and 2, coinciding with the Catholic holidays of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day, New Orleans joins many other places around the world in observing the Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos. In New Orleans, the Day of the Dead is celebrated with various events and activities all over town. Families visit cemeteries to commune with their departed and tend to their tombs. Some build colorful altars and leave elaborate displays. Others decorate themselves in the manner of stylized skeletons.
For those who want to experience the Day of the Dead in New Orleans, here are some of the events going on around the city:
1. Day of the Dead Fet Gede
New Orleans Healing Center
November 1 5:30 p.m. to 11:15 p.m.
La Source Ancienne Ounfo, a New Orleans-based Vodou society, in partnership with the New Orleans Healing Center, will celebrate the Day of the Dead/Fet Gede with a Vodou ceremony to invoke the Gede. This is a free celebration on November 1, which includes local artists, a potluck dinner, a parade, and a traditional voodoo ceremony. The event fuses the Day of the Dead with a Voodoo ceremony for Gede, a family of Haitian Voodoo spirits, who are the patrons of the dead.
2. Day of the Dead Parade
Krewe de Mayahuel
November 2, 7 p.m.
In the most typical of New Orleans traditions, any reason to have a parade is a good reason to have a parade. The Day of the Dead is no ordinary excuse either. As a very Catholic city, nearly all Catholic holidays have a parade associated with them. In fact, you can thank the Catholic Church for the mother of all parade seasons—Mardi Gras. As the Day of the Dead has a deep connection to Catholicism, it would be near sacrilege to not have a parade. The Krewe de Mayahuel hosts an annual Mexican Day of the Dead procession, honoring the lives of those who have died (particularly in the preceding year).
The parade route travels from the Bywater to St. Roch Cemetery #1, where they stop at the gates, and there will be singing and remembrances.
Before the procession, at 4 p.m., the Krewe de Mayahuel will present a mini festival at Mickey Markey Park.
3. Noche de Muertos at the Museum
New Orleans Jazz Museum
November 3, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Noche de Muertos at the Museum is a gala organized by the Jazz Museum and the Mexican Consulate in New Orleans. Admission to the event is a bit pricey at $100, but this is not an event to pass up. You can expect an enchanting evening filled with cultural immersion, live entertainment, and an array of delicious Mexican snacks and enticing cocktails. There will also be a costume contest, with awards given for the most captivating and imaginative Day of the Dead attire.
4. Día de Los Muertos Festival
Saturday, November 4, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
New Orleans' love for festivals is endless, so it comes to no surprise that there is one for the Day of the Dead. The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana Young Professionals and the New Orleans Jazz Museum host an annual Día de Los Muertos Festival. You can enjoy local food, music, kids' activities, local vendors, and much more. In a more personal touch, you can visit the ofrenda table to honor your loved ones. The Festival also holds a costume contest. This free family-friendly fest is to die for.
The Day of the Dead in New Orleans is more than just a holiday, it is a celebration of life and culture. It is a way of honoring the past while embracing the present. It is a testament to the resilience and diversity of New Orleans and its people.