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Rebecca Harper

Day of the Dead Events in the West

Posted by Rebecca Harper on October 08, 2018
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  • Hollywood Forever Dia de los Muertos, picture
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    Photo Courtesy of Hollywood Forever
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    Elaborate costumes, face paint, and colorful altars make up the Day of the Dead at Hollywood Forever in Los Angeles.
  • Dia de los Muertos van altar Hollywood Forever, picture
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    Photo Courtesy of Hollywood Forever
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    Altars such as this decorated van typically represent the dead being honored on Día de los Muertos.
  • Dia de los Muertos altar Hollywood Forever, picture
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    Photo Courtesy of Hollywood Forever
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    Papier-mâché puppets on display at L.A.'s Day of the Dead.
  • Tucson All Souls Procession craft table for kids, picture
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    Photo: Rachel Hardman
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    The All Souls Procession in Tucson has crafts and other activities for kids.
  • Tucson All Souls Procession costumes, picture
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    Photo: Jason Vidusea
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    Costumed participants in the All Souls Procession make their way through Tucson's downtown district.
  • Tucson All Souls Procession dancer, picture
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    Photo: Elijah LeComte
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    The All Souls Procession Weekend in Tucson includes performance art.
  • Fire dancer at the All Souls Procession, Tucson, picture
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    Photo: Elijah LeComte
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    Tucson's All Souls Procession pays homage to the holiday's Aztec roots.
  • Attendees at the San Francisco Mission District Dia de los Muertos, picture
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    Photo: Mark Gunn
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    San Francisco's Mission District has hosted a Day of the Dead processional since the early 1970s.
  • Painted Faces at San Francisco Mission District Dia de Los Muertos, picture
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    Photo: Mark Gunn
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    Day of the Dead participants don face paint and costumes in San Francisco's Mission District.

Originating thousands of years ago among the Aztecs in Mexico, Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is hardly a somber event. It’s more a celebration of departed friends, family members, ancestors, and sometimes even legends and heroes. Here in the United States, events may span several days and feature altars, processionals, and other activities to honor the dead. 

Hollywood Forever, Los Angeles

More than 100 altars honoring ancestors, heroes, and loved ones set a colorful backdrop for the day-long L.A. Día de los Muertos procession at the Hollywood Forever cemetery on October 27. Now in its 19th year, this celebration features traditional Aztec ritual dancers, art exhibits, and four stages with live music. While you're there, keep an eye out for the decorated graves of celebrities such as Rudolph Valentino and Johnny and Dee Dee Ramone. 

Downtown Tucson

The All Souls Procession weekend from November 2 through 4 has artistic roots—local artist Susan Johnson started the event to honor her late father in 1990—but has now expanded to welcome more than 150,000 participants, many of them costumed. A two-mile walk among papier-mâché puppets, altars, and art installations follows a large ceremonial urn carrying messages, prayers, and the names of loved ones through downtown Tucson

Mission District, San Francisco

You can build your own altar for display in San Francisco’s Garfield Square, or bring flowers, candles, and mementos of loved ones to place on public altars. On November 2, a boisterous Day of the Dead procession with art, music, and live performances makes its way through the streets of the Mission District.

Old Town San Diego

There are plenty of ways to celebrate Day of the Dead in Old Town San Diego, from sugar skull crafts and folklorico dancing to face painting, art exhibits, and seasonal menus. Life-size Catrina skeleton dolls dress up the Fiesta de Reyes courtyard, and 45 altars—including one for the public to add personal photos and mementos—pay tribute to the spirits of loved ones from November 2 to 4. The celebration culminates with a festive candlelight procession.

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