This is my Dia de los Muertos alter, for my Grandfather (aka Paw-Baw). It is not fancy, I made do with what I had at my desk…but the meaning is there: remembrance and love.
If you too feel inspired to create a special place of memory for lost loved ones today. Here is a detailed description of “how to”:
CREATING YOUR ALTAR
One of the key elements of Dia De Los Muertos revolves around ofrendas, or offerings, which are created through a visual display of altar-making and grave decorating. The offerings, a main focal point of the observance, echo the dedication and distinct love that is presented toward the dearly departed. Altars can be created through a wide spectrum of dedications, depending on one’s creative desire. The altar includes the four main elements of nature – Earth, Wind, Water and Fire.
- Earth is represented by the crop: The soul is fed by the various earthly aromas. Placing fruit or favorite family dishes on the altar provides nourishment for the beloved souls.
- Wind is represented by a moving object: Paper- Mache is commonly utilized to represent the echoes of the wind.
- Water is placed in a container for the soul to quench its thirst after the long awaited journey to the altar. Water is also used for the means of purification.
- Fire is represented by a wax candle: Each lit candle represents a loving soul, and an extra one is placed for the forgotten soul.
- Copal – Incense burned to commemorate Pre-Columbian history.
- The Cempasuchitl-Marigold known as “The flower of the dead” blossoms in the valleys of Mexico during the months of October and November with a bright yellow color and is central to altar decorating. This flower aids the spirits to wander back.
- Pictures are widely used in honor of the individual you are paying homage to.
- The Skull – The common symbol of the holiday is the skull which is celebrated and represented by decorative masks called calacas. In addition sugar skulls are also tastefully created and inscribed with the names of both the honored and living recipients on the forehead as a means to remind us of our own mortality.