Host a Dia De Los Muertos Party

Despite the ominous name, Dia de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a joyful celebration of life. Originating in central Mexico and celebrated during the first two days of November, the tradition focuses on remembering and celebrating the lives of loved ones who have passed away. No tears are allowed during the revelry, as it’s believed the tears make the spirit’s path treacherous and slippery.

This year, bring out the dead by recreating the holiday in your home with an authentic Dia de Los Muertos fiesta. With a few traditional dishes, lively decorations and a group of close friends and family, you can host one very lively Day of the Dead party.

Dearly Departed Dishes

Dia de Los Muertos is marked by symbolic treats like elaborately embellished sugar cookies, sweetbreads, spicy tamales, and, of course, spirits (the alcoholic kind). Serve crowd-pleasing munchies like guacamole, salsa, and tortilla chips and mix in traditional items like Pan de Muerto (bread of the dead) and Calavera cookies (decorated skull sugar cookies). For an aromatic touch, serve freshly toasted pumpkin seeds (the traditional snack served to visiting spirits).


Dia De Los Muerto Skull Cookies


Drinks can be as simple as shots of a fine tequila or as fancy as specialty mixed cocktails. The rich and creamy Henessy La Ofrenda (the offering) from Latina pays homage to the sweeter side of Mexican tastes while The Savory’s El Diablo is for the more devilish palate.

Supernatural Decorations

Central to the holiday is the altar, which according to the Latin Times, is the most important element of the annual celebration. An amalgamation of Catholic beliefs and Mexican culture, the altar holds offerings to the deceased, including favorite foods, small gifts, and symbolic tokens of an easy passage to the afterlife. Start with a long narrow table covered in a bright table cloth. Use cake plates or boxes of various sizes underneath to create depth.


Dia De Los Muertos Altar


Symbolic items to adorn your altar:

  • Lantern: String a lantern above your altar as a shining light to the dead to find their way home.
  • Arch: Create a central arch on your altar or the wall above it to symbolize the entryway into the world of the dead.
  • Flowers: Decorate your arch and embellish your table with blooms of yellow (guides spirits back to reunite with the mortal world for the celebration), white (symbolizes the sky), and purple (the traditional color of mourning).
  • Fire: Intersperse candles around the table to represent torches of love for the deceased and guiding lights.

Invite your guests to bring framed photographs of their departed loved ones to add to the altar as well as offerings or personal mementos.

Spirited Activities

If you want to add a fun activity for your guests, kick up the festivities with Calavera face painting. Create a makeup station with a large mirror, face painting kits (available at craft and costume shops) and all the necessary supplies. This Dia de Los Muertos makeup tutorial offers a dose of deadly inspiration. As an alternative, you may be able to find a makeup artist willing to be the designated face painter of the night.


Dia De Los Muertos Skull Face Painting


Finally, raise the dead with a little dancing with the stars. Seed a Pandora mix with salsa and merengue tracks to inspire a festive soundscape. Celia Cruz, Rubén Blades, and Elvis Crespo are safe bets to get the party rumbling.

By: Lisa Kasanicky

Author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Girlfriend Getaways,” Lisa Kasanicky is also the creator of — a celebrated beauty and wellness guide for the new generation of spa enthusiasts. With a writing career that spans more than 20 years, Lisa has developed spa and travel guides for the Arizona Office of Tourism and The Arizona Republic’s family of lifestyle publications. She currently serves as a beauty columnist for So Scottsdale! and Uptown magazines and appears regularly on local TV news shows as a lifestyle expert.