Cultural Festivals – Day of the Dead Guatemala

If you think about the day of the dead your mind will probably automatically wonder to thinking about the traditional sculls from Mexico. But Guatemala also celebrates this holiday and does it in a completely different way that you should definitely experience at least once.

One of the many unique traditions that Guatemalan’s carry on during the day of the dead is the giant kite festival.

Cultural Festivals - Day of the Dead Guatemala

How to Celebrate Day of the Dead Guatemala

The people in Santiago Sacatepequez, Guatemala spend all year working, planning, and fundraising for the November first day of the dead festival.

Every 1st. of November, in order to commemorate the spirits of their deceased loved ones, locals exhibit to the world the artsiest and huge kites that you will ever see. The designs are usually religious, show nationalist depictions, there are some that even show scenes that critique politicians.

Locals from here built extravagant kites or barriletes gigantes and fly them high above the cemeteries as they say it’s a symbolic link between the living and the dead. Some people still believe that kites can carry out messages for their loved ones who passed away long ago.

Cultural Festivals - Day of the Dead Guatemala

Even the graves are astonishingly beautiful too, painted in blue, pink, and green all decorated with different kinds of flowers and loose flower petals are beautifully arranged to form soft carpets.

Every year on November first food vendors and kite artisans flood the local cemetery or football court to display the artwork that took them almost a whole year to build. During the afternoon they will start a competition where they try to get those five or ten-meter tall kites to lift from the ground by taking advantage of the strong winds of the season.

Some even believe that during this one-day spirits of their loved ones come back to earth.

Cultural Festivals - Day of the Dead Guatemala

When it’s time for the spirits to return back to heaven, they once again release the giant kites in the sky for they believe that the kites will guide back their spirits but if the kites were torn by the wind, they are burned inside the cemetery in the hope that the rising smoke will guide the spirits back.

Other Ways that Guatemalans Celebrate the Day of the Dead

This celebration comes hand in hand with s traditional dish. during the day of the dead in Guatemala most locals prepare a huge salad-like dish called Fiambre. It is prepared only once per year. It is one of those things that either people love with a passion or can’t even smell. They serve it along with sweet jocotes, prepared with a sort of spicy honey.

Cultural Festivals - Day of the Dead Guatemala

Some families even pack-up cleaning supplies, paint, food, alcohol, and even something to play music on and head over to the cemetery. They spend all day cleaning and decorating the mausoleum or graves where their loved ones are buried. As night starts to fall they all sit around, have a short and lively family gathering with food, music, and drinks. It basically turns into a party where even the dead get their own plates of food and drinks.

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Cultural Festivals - Day of the Dead Guatemala

About Marina Villatoro

Marina Kuperman Villatoro CEO of TravelExperta.com, a travel resource site to inspire families to travel with kids of all ages. Marina has been an expat 20+ years in Central America raising 2 boys in a multicultural, trilingual household. She travels all over the world with her family to give first hand experiences of where to eat, stay and play with kids. Needless to say, it’s never boring! Join Marina on Facebook and Twitter for more unique and boutique family travel!

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