Honoring Your Ancestors: 6 Chicago Celebrations for Día de los Muertos

By Daniel Goldberg |

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Though closely associated with American Halloween festivities, Día de los Muertos — or Day of the Dead — is a tradition centered around honoring and paying tribute to one’s ancestors, who are thought to have a beneficial and watchful influence on the lives of their descendants. The holiday is celebrated from October 31 to November 2 throughout Latin America, and there are many different customs representing different countries and regions.

In Chicago, we are most familiar with the Mexican tradition, which features ofrendas: displays on altars that include pictures, food, drink, flowers, and calaveras, or sugar skulls. Families pray together and tell stories of loved ones who have passed. When the night concludes, the food and drink on the altar are consumed by the family, and dancing and music begin.

Below you will find some of the many events and celebrations Chicago has to offer to celebrate these days of remembrance.

Dia de Muertos: Una Celebracion de la Vida en Logan Square

Saturday, October 30, 4pm-8pm • Comfort Station; 2579 N Milwaukee Ave. • Free • Link
Join Comfort Station and the Logan Square Neighborhood Association for a Dia De Muertos celebration on the Comfort Station Lawn. The event will feature food vendors, live music, storytelling, as well as an opportunity to see the memorial flags produced by community members during our series of public workshops with artists Carina Yepez and Erica Littlejohn. The flags will adorn the outdoor installation designed by Via Architects + Diseñadores. In addition to the flags, there will also be ofrendas designed by local artists and community members, as well as an altar that community members are invited to contribute to.

Luisroj96, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

VillArte’s Little Village- Day of the Dead Altar Walk

November 6 and 7, starting at 11am-5pm • 3700 W. 26th St. • Free • Link
VillArte-Chicago La Villita is hosting the 16th Annual Little Village Arts Fest 2021 with its 6th Recorrido de Ofrendas, a celebration of the Día de los Muertos tradition. This two-day event will have altars from local businesses and community members at designated business storefronts along 26th Street. There will be free virtual workshops, art kits, live mural painting, and more.

Calaveras y Corazón: A Día de los Muertos Performance and Cultural Affair

October 29 and 30, 8pm • Hairpin Arts Center; 2810 North Milwaukee Ave • $15-$25 • Link
Celebrate Día De Los Muertos with Ratas De Dos Patas. This award-winning Latina comedy collective will honor your loved ones through heartwarming comedy that will move you with laughter, cultura, and corazón. In addition to the theatrical performance, attendees can immerse themselves in the interactive living ofrendas, shop from featured Latinx-owned businesses (Sweet Geek Pastry, AngMir, & YumPilsen), and enjoy a beer from Cervecería Cruz Blanca.

Concierto Día de Muertos

October 30 8pm • Copernicus Center; 5216 W. Lawrence Ave • $25-$35 • Link
Mariachi Herencia de México presents Concierto Día de Muertos. This Latin GRAMMY-nominated group performs masterful mariachi arrangements, with powerful vocals and exquisite harmonies. Based in Chicago, the dynamic ensemble of young Mexican-American musicians keeps the history of this festive folk style alive, while infusing the music with a modernistic approach. Mariachi Herencia de México performs a musical tribute to the dead in celebration of Día de Muertos.

Día de Muertos – A Time to Grieve & Remember

Running through December 12 • National Museum of Mexican Art; 1852 W 19 St. • Free • Link
This year’s Day of the Dead exhibition at the National Museum of Mexican Art (the 35th annual installment) pays tribute to the numerous individuals from Mexico and the US who have died from COVID-19. The exhibition invites you to contemplate this moment with new works by local artists and site-specific installations created by artists from both sides of the US-Mexico border.

Maxwell Street Market: Día de los Muertos

October 31, 10:00 am-2:00 pm • 800 S. Desplaines St. • Free • Link
The historic Maxwell Street Market celebrates Día de los Muertos with live music, food, and art workshops. Create your own altars, ofrendas, and sugar skulls, or join the marigold flower-making workshop.

Maxwell Street Market (Photo: Edsel Little, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)