Mexico's reputation for full-blooded festive fun is well founded: just about every month sees a major national holiday or fiesta, and every other day is a local saint's day or town fair celebration. Carnaval, held late February or early March in the week before Ash Wednesday, is the big bash before the 40-day penance of Lent; it's particularly flagrant in MazatlÃ¡n, Veracruz and La Paz. The country's most characteristic fiesta is the wonderfully macabre DÃa de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), held the day after All Saints' Day on November 2. The souls of the dear departed are believed to return to earth on this day, and for weeks beforehand the country's markets are awash with the highly sought-after candy skulls and papier-mÃ¢chÃ© skeletons that find their way into many a visitor's souvenir collection. December 12 is another big day on the Mexican calendar, celebrating the Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the country's major religious icon.
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