Dia de los Muertos Altar

muertos-altarI’m o excited that Dia de los Muertos is coming! It’s funny how adding a baby to the family makes you want to revive traditions. Anyhoo … I’ve been digging around the family photo book and planning the decorations to create a Dia de los Muertos altar for our family. We need to commemorate: my mom, my grandma, my great grandma and my great great grandma. As I’m working on our family’s altar it occurs to me that everyone might not know what to include in a Dia de los Muertos altar. Here are some ideas:

Photos of the deceased – Large, formal ones are good, but smaller candids are also good.

Marigolds – Cempasuchitl, the Aztec term for “marigolds,” grow and wilt quickly, reflecting the fleeting nature of life. Their aroma helps lure a spirit back.

Pan de muerto – bread in shapes that represent death.

Fruit — specifically tejocotes and oranges.

Papel Picado – Black represents death, purple means grief or mourning, pink is for celebration, white symbolizes hope, and yellow stands in for the sun.

Sugar skulls – Calaveras, are representations of human skulls.

Candles – to welcome spirits to the altars. Four candles at the top represent the cardinal directions and provide a lighted path to this world.

Incense – Often copal. Burning copal is a holdover tradition from the Aztecs, who used the incense as an offering to the gods.

Salt – a symbol of purification.

A Xoloescuintle Xolo for short, is a hairless breed of dog,

A glass of water – to refresh the dead after their journey.

Favorite foods of the deceased – whatever tasty foods they like.

Favorite items of the deceased – books, tools and other items that the deceased enjoyed while alive.


Have I forgotten anything? What do you put on your altar?


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