Día de los Muertos / Day of the Dead 2020

"Death" is not mentioned in many cultures because it is said that it "burns the lips." Mexican culture, however, plays with death and embraces it with celebration and love as a part of life. (Octavio Paz)

Most people have heard about the Day of the Dead or seen the classic sugar skull paintings. But do you know what this celebration really represents?

One of the most important things to know about Dia de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) is that it is not a Mexican version of Halloween. Dia de los Muertos originated as an indigenous Mexican celebration of life. It dates back thousands of years to the pre-Hispanic era, when mourning the dead was considered disrespectful because death is just another stage in the cycle of life. Dia de los Muertos is an occassion dedicated to the memories of deceased relatives and friends, and a time of celebration to ease the journey of departed souls into heaven.

The present-day incarnation of the holiday is celebrated on the 2 November, and it incorporates both indigenous and Christian traditions, including making ofrendas (offerings), writing and reading short poems called calaveras, and enjoying the dishes and drinks that were enjoyed by the dearly departed. Offerings are made on an 'altar', decorated with candles, flowers, fruit, bread and photographs of departed loved ones along with their favourite food, drinks and mementoes.

Dia de Muertos / Day of the Dead altar and informational display at South Library
Dia de Muertos / Day of the Dead altar and informational display at South Library, 2018.

With Dia de los Muertos becoming so popular, thanks in part to movies such as Coco, Book of Life, and the James Bond film Spectre, celebrations happen in many parts of the world with parades, altar competitions and people dressing up in flamboyant 19th-century costumes wearing face paint resembling skeletons colourfully decorated with flowers and hearts.

Library events celebrating Día de los Muertos

Family makerspace

Tūranga, Saturday 31 October, 2.30-4pm. Make and decorate a colourful paper skull mask


This year, an 'altar' and informational display will be set up on 1 November by the Mexican community on the ground floor in Tūranga and will stay there all week.

Tūranga, Sunday 1 November to Saturday 7 November

Storytimes (Bilingual English and Spanish)

Celebrate Mexican culture with a special themed session to celebrate Dia de Muertos.

Movie screening

Tūranga, Saturday 7 November, 11.30am-1.30pm. A free screening of a popular children’s movie to celebrate Dia de los Muertos.

Dia de los Muertos Celebration

Closing a week of themed events and activities in several libraries, there will be a few events including games, and music and dance performances at Tūranga. Come and join us in this celebration of life and death!

Tūranga, Saturday 7 November, 2-3pm.

(The previously scheduled Loteria event has been cancelled).

More about Dia de los Muertos


Streaming video and movies:

  • Catalogue record for La Ofrenda: The days of the deadDay of the dead Two kids who have never met are paired up to attend a Mexican celebration filled with mariachi music, a feast of tamales and a Spanish performance.
  • Mexico: Day of the Dead In "My Americas," Mexican American hosts Roberto Alcaraz and Leticia Vásquez travel into the rich cultural and spiritual life of Latin America in search of their heritage.
  • La Ofrenda: The Days of the Dead A first and thorough look at the Mexican celebration of the dead, the sacred days when the souls of the departed return to visit the living.
  • Coco Young musician, Miguel, finds himself in the stunning and colourful Land of the Dead following a mysterious chain of events.


For kids

For adults

Catalogue record for Day of the DeadCatalogue record for The Day of the Dead El Día De Los MuertosCatalogue record for My family celebrates Day of the DeadCatalogue record for Gustavo the shy ghostDia de los muertosCatalogue record for Funny bonesCatalogue record for CocoCatalogue record for Day of the DeadCatalogue record for The day of the dead

We welcome your respectful and on-topic comments and questions in this limited public forum. To find out more, please see Appropriate Use When Posting Content. Community-contributed content represents the views of the user, not those of Christchurch City Libraries