Though Dia de los Muertos translates to Day of the Dead there’s nothing morbid or scary about it. It’s a holiday meant for celebrating loved ones we’ve lost with bright colors, flowers, and their favorite foods. It’s a festive 3 days of remembering and talking about your memories of those who have past on.
The festivities start on October 31st which is the Day of Preparation. This is the day we make the “Ofrenda” or Altar. To make your own Ofrenda follow these steps:
Find a space you can dedicate to your loved one/s. This can be a small or large console, table or countertop.
Display flowers around your altar. Brightly colored flowers, traditionally marigolds, can be placed in vases or as a garland. The bright colors and fragrance of the flowers.
Fruit that is in season like oranges or apples are placed on the altar.
Papel Picado which is brightly colored paper can be hung over the altar to add to the festive spirit to this celebration of life. You can buy it or even make it.
Pictures of the loved ones you’re celebrating can be placed. Your altar can be dedicated to one or many of your family members or friends that have passed. Although photographs are not always needed to dedicate an altar to someone.
Foods your loved ones enjoyed can be placed on the altar. I have pan dulce (sweet bread) and tamales. I have many fond memories of enjoying these foods with my Grandma Nena.
Glass of water or juice to quench their thirst from their journey.
Shot of Tequila or their preferred alcohol.
Trinkets or items like jewelry your loved one cherished in their life.
Salt, the spice of life, is traditionally placed in a small bowl.
Crosses and Saints are placed to bless your loved ones in their after life.
Incense to purify the air.
Perfume, soap and makeup. Is placed on the altar to help your loved one’s spirit feel refreshed and cleansed. I have my Grandma’s face powder she always used and I put it out for her because it reminds me so much of her.
Placing these items together on an altar for your loved ones is a beautiful way to honor and celebrate the memory and spirit of our loved ones who have passed. It’s a great activity to do with children (minus the alcohol). Placing the photographs, foods and trinkets will likely prompt questions from your children that will allow you to share your precious and happy memories you have of them with your children. I loved telling my daughter about the fond memories I have of my Grandma Nena. When she asked about the pan dulce on the altar I enjoyed telling my daughter about my Grandma’s house and how she always had pan dulce and other goodies in her pastry dish along with many other lovely memories.
An Altar can be large or small and either elaborate or simple. Any way you choose to honor and celebrate your loved ones with an Ofrenda, you’ll be ready for November 1st which is Dia de los Innnocentes or the Day of the Children as well as All Saints Day and also for November 2nd which is All Souls Day or the Day of the Dead. Dia de los Muertos is all about celebrating the life of the ones we’ve lost and I hope this inspires you to create your own Ofrenda for your loved ones.
“No me llores, no, porque si lloras yo peno, en cambio si tu me cantas yo siempre vivo, y nunca muero…”
“Don’t cry for me, because if you cry, I hurt, instead if you sing for me, I will always live and never die…”