I’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 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?
As today is Cinco de Mayo I thought I’d take a moment to explain what Cindo de Mayo really is. First off, Cinco de May (the 5th of May) is NOT Independence Day. Nope, that’s September 16th. El Grito de la Independencia was cried out in the fall. Cinco de Mayo celebrates the victory of a small Mexican Army over a much larger French Army.
Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for “fifth of May”) is a celebration held on May 5. It is celebrated nationwide in the United States and regionally in Mexico, primarily in the state of Puebla, where the holiday is called El Día de la Batalla de Puebla (English: The Day of the Battle of Puebla). The date is observed in the United States as a celebration of Mexican heritage and pride, and to commemorate the cause of freedom and democracy during the first years of the American Civil War. In the state of Puebla, the date is observed to commemorate the Mexican army’s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza Seguín.
Just thought I’d throw that out there.