Day of the Dead Masks

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Day of the Dead masks for Halloween?  Humm…Every October 1, my sister-in-law gets really excited because it’s finally October and therefore socially acceptable to begin decorating for her favorite holiday, Halloween.

She’s such a creative person, I can’t help but wonder what might happen if she decided to celebrate All Saint’s Day and All Hallow’s Eve Mexican-style with Day of the Dead masks, candy skulls, ofrenda altars, papel picado, and mounds of fresh marigolds.

While Halloween may have a greater variety of decoration themes, el día de los muertos definitely offers more chances for creativity.  Unlike Halloween decorations, which are typically store-bought and reused from year to year, decorations for the Day of the Dead are more often handmade and we only re-use a few specific types of decorations like catrinas or Calaveras.

Other decorations, like marigold flowers, paper banners, and sugar skulls, for example, are left out in the cemeteries or on outdoor altars after the holiday is over, where they slowly drift away in the wind and melt in the rain until nothing is left.

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This helps reinforce one of the primary messages of the holiday: life is short and everyone/everything passes away.  The need to make new decorations for the Day of the Dead each year also gives families a chance to sit down together and remember loved ones that have passed away.

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Besides setting up the altar with the different types of ofrendas or food offerings for the spirits of the dead to eat, the family also must make sugar skulls with the dead relatives’ names on them, to help the spirits find the right altar.

Most people dress up like a skeleton, which is the most popular symbol of the Day of the Dead, but dressing as the devil is also common. Either way, the mask has a specific function and it is to help scare the spirits of the dead away from their altars at the end of the holiday.

How Are Day of The Dead Masks?

Among the more optional Day of the Dead crafts is making masks máscaras del día de los muertos for the living to wear.  Many communities have parties with music and costumed dancing on the Day of the Dead.

Day of the Dead masks are traditionally handmade out of wood or paper-mache, but nowadays you can also buy premade masks that might be latex or paper.
Some people think that the move towards premade masks shows that this part of the Day of the Dead is becoming more commercial, like the American Halloween.

Day of the Dead maybe becoming more commercial hoverer,  this doesn’t apply to the spirit of the holiday. Unlike American Halloween, which seems to be about death and darkness, Mexican Day of the Dead is really about celebrating family.

During the holiday people honor their dead relatives in an effort to stay connected to them, and to understand that while death comes for everyone eventually, you should never fear it. We could all learn a lot from this attitude of Mexican Day of the Dead!

Why Visit Lake Atitlán in Guatemala

Lake Atitlán in Guatemala

I used to dream of relaxing beside the waters of famous Lake Cuomo in Italy, but that was before I discovered Lake Atitlan Guatemala. In my opinion, Lake Atitlan is America’s answer to Lake Cuomo—a relaxing destination that is superior to its European counterpart in almost every way.  It is more peaceful, more dramatically beautiful, and best of all, more affordable.

I can spend almost a whole week at one of the mid-range Lake Atitlán hotels for what it would cost to stay just one night on Lake Cuomo. Needless to say I will be going back. Hope to see you there!

Exploring Lake Atitlan: 3 Must-Do Activities

Lake Atitlán in Guatemala

Lake Atitlán in Guatemala

Lake Atitlán, Guatemala really does feel like a little corner of paradise. The huge, brilliant blue lake sits nearly a mile high up in the mountains, in the ancient crater of an extinct volcano. Lush green hills and the peaks of three volcanoes form a dramatic backdrop for the play of light over the lake at sunrise and sunset. As you explore Lake Atitlán and the many villages that dot its shores, be sure to fit in these 3 must-do activities.

Experience Mayan Culture

Lake Atitlán and the surrounding countryside is home mostly to indigenous Mayan people. During your Lake Atitlán vacation, you will have plenty of opportunities to interact with them, sample local foods, and learn about Mayan culture.

The best way to really immerse yourself in the local culture is to make a point of visiting some of the local villages, like Santa Catarina Palopo or San Antonio Palopo. Both of these villages are home to Kaquichel Mayan people, and they are easily reached by paved roads from Panajachel. You can even walk to San Antonio Palopo in about two hours.

Kayak on the Lake

Atitlán a perfect place to kayak

Atitlán a perfect place to kayak

Lago Atitlán Guatemala takes its name from a Nahuatl word meaning “at the water.” When visiting Lake Atitlán, you absolutely have to experience the lake up close and personal. While swimming provides welcome relief from the warm sunny weather, and you can always hop a ride on one of the many water taxis that serve the villages in lieu of roads, the best way to explore is by kayak.

You can rent a kayak at La Casa Del Mundo, which, incidentally, is also a great hotel to stay at. Be sure to set off early in the morning so you can enjoy your kayaking before the afternoon winds start up.

Climb a Volcano

Lake Atitlán has lush vegetation because of the volcanic soil

Lake Atitlán has lush vegetation because of the volcanic soil

Climbing one of the volcanos that rise above the south side of the lake gives you a whole new perspective on Lake Atitlan. San Pedro is the most popular volcano to climb, and guided tours start from the village of San Pedro.

My recommendation? Wait until you arrive to hire your guide, and you will avoid paying huge fees to a middleman. Your guide will likely be an indigenous Quiche who can tell you a lot about the region.

 

 

How to Get to Lake Atitlán

Getting to Lake Atitlan is pretty easy. All you have to do is hop on a bus in Guatemala City, and about three hours later you will arrive in Panajachel, the largest and most popular city on the lake.

From Panajachel you can take a shuttle bus or a water taxi to other villages around the lake. If you don’t want the typical, crowded Latin American “chicken bus” experience, there is a first class bus every day at 7:30 am.

Where to Stay on Lake Atitlán







There are almost too many hotels and hostels around Lake Atitlan to count.  If you want to stay outside of any town, La Casa Del Mundo is a beautiful boutique hotel with a stunning cliffside location and its own restaurant. This hotel is widely regarded as one of the best values for your money in Lake Atitlán.

 

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