Try a “Day of the Dead” party instead of a Traditional Halloween party

Contributor: Elizabeth Payne


October 14th, 2016-Why does it feel as though Halloween celebrations fall into two categories? The traditional kids in costumes fest that requires you to keep mega-bags of mini Snickers in the pantry for far longer than you can be expected to stay away from said mega-bags. Or the adult-style bacchanal that demands you paint your flesh green, wear lingerie as clothing and pretend you’re okay with it. Isn’t there some sort of happy medium? Something easy?

Consider a Day of the Dead party!

Many cultures celebrate some version of Day of the Dead, but Americans are probably most familiar with the Mexican version, Dia de los Muertos, which takes place on November 1st this year. No, it’s not exactly Halloween but close enough. Dia de los Muertos is a day to celebrate, remember and throw a rockin’ party in honor of those who have passed on. Traditionally families build altars that are decorated with photos of the deceased, sugar skulls, skeletons, marigolds, candles and brightly colored papel picado (hand cut tissue paper flags).

Departed souls are summoned home with ofrendas- offerings of food and drink.

Why not summon a few friends to join you for party that takes a page from the Dia de los Muertos playbook?

“Wait! Wait! Wait!” you say, “It’s only two days ‘til Halloween! This looks elaborate. I have a family! A job! And only so much gas left in my tank by the end of the week!”

Relax. You’re going to pull this off with a trip to the grocery store, a trip to the liquor store and a visit to your local Mexican bakery. Yes, you do have a local Mexican bakery… and you have Google. You’ll find it. A good Mexican bakery will have tamales to take home. No, you do not want to make these yourself, at least not on the fly. While homemade tamales can be delicious, they also have the potential to become a horror show entitled Nightmare on Tamale Street. Tamales are like children; it takes a village. To do it right it takes DAYS! Making the fillings, making the masa, rolling the tamales, steaming the tamales, and that’s just if everything goes right. For the uninitiated, this one is best left to the pros.


The bakery will also have some Dia de los Muertos staples like Pan de Muerto (think very sweet challah) and sugar skulls (these are decorative). Take the opportunity to pick up anything else that looks tasty- guava pastry, perhaps? You may also find that the bakery or a shop near the bakery sells Day of the Dead decorative items. See if you can find some papel picado to string up. You’ll also want to get your hands on several bunches of orange marigolds and a slew of votive candles. These will become your table decorations.


One Dia de los Muertos tradition is that of poring a shot of tequila or opening a beer for the deceased. Shouldn’t you do the same for your guests? Consider buying several bottles of good tequila and hosting a tequila tasting. Or if the idea of a theme cocktail floats your boat, how about Pomegranate Margaritas?



Head to the grocery store for chips and salsa, grab some avocados if you want to make guacamole, and whip up a salad to go with it all. Festively colored paper plates and napkins will make clean up much easier.


There you go. You’ve got a party!