Unlike Halloween, Día de los Muertos–Mexico's famous holiday that honors the dead–is celebrated over three days and includes colorful altars, offerings of sweet bread, and festive skeletons. This year it begins on Wednesday, October 31 and runs until Friday, November 2. To sample the holiday's fun traditions, head on over to these five spots in East Harlem, home to one of the city's most vibrant Mexican communities.
East Harlem's Mexican bakeries
Pan de muerto–literally, bread of the dead–is a sweet loaf that's eaten only during Día de los Muertos. Decorated with shapes meant to resemble bones, the orange-infused treat is nevertheless more cute than scary. While tradition calls for leaving the bread on an altar dedicated to the dearly departed, it's also meant to be enjoyed–with a cafecito, of course. Stop by Mexican Bakery Andres and Don Paco Lopez–two of East Harlem's best Mexican bakeries–to get your very own.
This week is the perfect time to branch out from La Chula's insanely tasty tacos and sample the special Día de los Muertos menu. Try the Llorona margarita mixed with dragon fruit and ginger syrup, the torta (sandwich) made with sweet concha bread stuffed with carnitas, pickled vegetables, refried beans and guacamole, and the ice cream sandwich made with pan de muerto.
Go directly to the museum's cafe to admire this year's spectacular Día de los Muertos altar created by artist Tlisza Jaurique. Once you've finished inspecting every last macabre detail, visit La Tienda (aka the museum shop) for a range of festive sugar skull-themed gifts. Before you leave, don't forget to pose with La Catrina in the lobby–this fancy lady's skeleton is a reminder that even the wealthy can't escape death.
This museum is hosting its own Day of the Dead celebrations on Friday afternoon. Add your own photos of loved ones to the traditional altar, then learn how to make a paper marigold, the holiday's traditional flower. Pan de muerto will be served.