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How to Throw an Authentic Day of the Dead Party

Plan a festive, colorful and authentic Day of the Dead party! We have ideas for decorations, costumes, food and more for your Día de Los Muertos fiesta.

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Mexican Day of the Dead celebrationShutterstock / Miriam Orozco

What Is Day of the Dead?

You probably know that it’s a Latin American holiday that happens around Halloween…but beyond that, what is Día de Los Muertos? Before you plan your party, get into the spirit (or should we say spirits) with our quick primer on everything you need to know about Day of the Dead.

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Decorations for traditional Mexican holiday Day of the Dead on a black background.Shutterstock / Arina P Habich

Craft Invitations with Bright Colors

Use your Day of the Dead party invitations to get guests excited about the celebration! For a theme, think vibrant colors and intricate designs, along with drawings of skulls, flowers, candles and picado (that’s cut paper) banners. These Etsy invitations are a perfect example.

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Participants in traditional clothing during Dia de los Muertos Mexican carnival.Shutterstock / Oleg Znamenskiy

Set a Ghostly Dress Code

To evoke the drama and intrigue of the Day of the Dead tradition, give your guests suggestions for traditional attire: flowing gowns embellished with lace, long gloves, flowers in the hair, tuxedo jackets, top hats and tail coats. For a less formal party, suggest fun and inexpensive skeleton-printed T-shirts, tops, leggings. You can even find Day of the Dead nail art!

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Mexican Day of the dead altar created entirely for this image session.Shutterstock / Nathalie Speliers Ufermann

Decorate with Skulls, Candles and Cut Paper

Plan ahead to gather gorgeous decorations like this for your party. Order from Amazon or head to your local crafts and party stores for decorated skulls, banners, colorful paper fans and tissue paper flowers. Take a cue from a traditional Day of the Dead altar or ofrenda: Have tables draped with long tablecloths and decorated with roses, marigolds, lighted candles, paper fans and skulls.

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The girl participant makes the sugar skull makeup on face a man during Dia de los Muertos Mexican carnival.Shutterstock / Oleg Znamenskiy

Plan on Face Painting

The face and body makeup at Day of the Dead parades is stunning! Set up a station at your party where guests can have their faces painted like a skull or with the ornate floral patterns and colors of the holiday. Even easier, pick up a pack of these Day of the Dead temporary face tattoos.

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Chicken tamalesTaste of Home

Cook Traditional Latin Food

Traditional Mexican and Latin American foods are a very important part of the Day of the Dead—so make sure your menu is ready! For an appetizer course, choose a handful of Latin appetizers. This collection of Mexican recipes to feed a crowd—which includes tamales, enchiladas, dips and chilis—will be an authentic part of your celebration.

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Day of the Dead cookiesTaste of Home

Serve Festive Sweets for Dessert

The sweets for your party should be as beautiful as the decorations! This collection of Mexican dessert recipes has showstoppers like Tres Leches Cupcakes and Creamy Caramel Flan. (Not to mention the gorgeous Day of the Dead Cookies.) A mug of warm Mexican Hot Chocolate will round out the party nicely. Look for local candy makers who might make traditional sugar skulls, too.

https://www.tasteofhome.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Day-of-the-Dead-Cookies_exps158027_UH2464847C03_20_5b_RMS-696×696.jpg

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Mariachi MusiciansShutterstock / Pedro Gutierrez

Play Latin Music

Dancing and music are integral to Day of the Dead celebrations, so set the tone for your fiesta with Mexican and Latin American music. Play CDs or search your music streaming service (like Spotify or Pandora) for traditional folk music, current Latin artists or a mix of both.

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Sugar Skull Favor Box Set for Day of the Dead PartyEtsy / JoJoDigitalStore

Pick Memorable Party Favors

Send your guests off at the end of the night with their own taste of Día de Los Muertos, via party favors like these Day of the Dead candy tins. Other ideas include novelty skeleton necklaces, handheld paper masks or some homemade Mexican Wedding Cakes. Pack up the favors in these cute sugar skull favor boxes.

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Unknown participant on a Parade of Catrinas in Paseo de la Reforma Avenue, MexicoShutterstock / CassandraMoHer

Do Something Special for Los Niños

Get kids in on Day of the Dead, too! They’ll love the face painting and costumes, as well as the vivid colors and lively music. Make bite-sized treats like Mini Chicken Empanadas and Mini Tacos, and for dessert, Mexican Cinnamon Cookies. The fun can include a candy-filled piñata and a game of “pin the tail on the burro.” For a grand finale, hold a screening of the Disney Pixar movie Coco, which takes place on the Day of the Dead!

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Nancy Mock
Discovering restaurants, tasting bakery treats, finding inspiration in new flavors and regional specialties—no wonder Nancy loves being a food and travel writer. She and her family live in Vermont and enjoy all things food, as well as the beautiful outdoors, game nights, Avengers movies and plenty of maple syrup. Find Nancy’s writing and recipes at her website: Hungry Enough To Eat Six.

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