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San Francisco Día de los Muertos Celebrations

Jeff Howard October 19, 2021

Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is celebrated each year on November 1st and 2nd, and there are plenty of wonderful ways to join the festivities in San Francisco! Originating in Mexico and observed by the Mexican and Central American community worldwide, the multi-day holiday features a joyous and often humorous celebration of friends and family members who have passed away. Known as a “dedication to the deceased,” families create ofrendas to honor family members or loved ones who are no longer with us.

A traditional ofrenda shown with yellow marigold flowers

A traditional ofrenda shown with yellow marigold flowers, calaveras, and Pan de Muerto.

The ofrendas are often decorated with their photos, favorite foods & drinks, along with bright yellow marigold flowers. The scent and vibrant color of the “Flor de Muerto” is believed to attract spirits to the ofrendas so they can once again be with family and feast on their favorite foods. In addition, calaveras are ubiquitous during Día de los Muertos, taking the form of sugar candies, clay decorations, and face paintings. The holiday is also separated into three distinct celebrations: Día de los Angelitos (Spirits of the children), Día de los Difuntos (Spirits of the adults), and Día de los Muertos (Spirits of all the dead). Learn about the many cheerful San Francisco Día de los Muertos Celebrations the local community has planned for this year!

SOMArts’ Día de los Muertos Exhibit


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This year’s in-person exhibit is open through November 5th, 2021 at SOMArts Cultural Center with a virtual gallery also available to the public. The installation combines the traditional design of a Día de Los Muertos altar with contemporary artwork. The exhibit also focuses on transformed visions of connection, freedom, and healing inspired by the events of the past year’s pandemic.

Paper Marigold Workshop at Mission Arts Center

Yellow, gold, and orange marigold flowers cover the altars and ofrendas of the deceased, their bright color designed to welcome souls back to the living world during Día de Los Muertos. This helpful and completely free class at Mission Arts Center is available for all ages five and up. Learn how to make your very own paper marigolds to celebrate this year’s festivities in the heart of the Mission District!

Festival of Altars

Anticipated yearly as one of the most popular Día de Los Muertos celebrations, the Festival of Altars will once again be virtual in 2021. The online gathering will host a series of cultural education workshops on ancestral food, medicine, wisdom, and more. Dedicated to the preservation of our planet, this virtual celebration is a great way to join the festivities from home.

Día de Los Muertos Drag Show


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Another great Día de Los Muertos event at the SOMArts Cultural Center is this year’s Drag Show curated by Per Sia. Taking place on Friday, October 22nd, from 7:30 to 9:30 PM, the show offers $35 table reservations and a $5-$10 suggested donation. Check out this one-of-a-kind San Francisco event in The City’s Design District.

MCCLA: 35th Annual Day of the Dead Exhibit

Open from October 12th through November 19th, the 35th annual Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts Day of the Dead exhibit invites all “to jointly explore and reflect on the eternal, ever-present cycle of Life and Death.” This year’s theme is ‘Ni Tanto Ni Tan Muertos’ or “Neither So Much, Nor So Dead.” The exhibit features a group known as Manos Creativas whose main objective is to explore different handcrafting techniques used on Mexican folk art by working with diverse materials, textures, colors, paintbrush strokes, sculpting, and modeling.”

Neighborhood Day of The Dead Altar


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If you’re interested in joining with the San Francisco community to honor and celebrate loved ones who have passed away, this is the event for you! Presented by CounterPulse at 80 Turk Street, the Tenderloin Neighborhood Day of the Dead Altar will offer multiple workshops with the goal of building a community altar. Open to all ages, you’ll be able to create your own ofrenda and bring it home on November 1st!

SF Symphony Community Concert


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Taking place on the Saturday following traditional Día de Los Muertos celebrations, the San Francisco Symphony will host a vibrant Day of the Dead concert conducted by Enluis Montes Olivar.  The show is open to all ages and features traditional Latin American music, dance, and culture. Located just a few blocks from the 1177 Market, 33 8th, 1190 Mission, and 1188 Mission apartments at Trinity Place, this is an excellent opportunity to join the party in the heart of The City!

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