Sugar Skulls [dot] Org

celebrate Dia de los Muertos

How to make a Day of the Dead altar


day of the dead altar ideas
Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrates the spirits of one’s deceased family. It is traditional to build an altar each year on November 01 and 02 to honor their memories and provide a feast for any spirits who visit on this occasion.

The altars built are called “ofrenda”. Each person participating in building that particular altar can place something on the altar which is symbolic of the person they wish to remember. Offerings will normally include the favorite items of those expected to visit -- foods, toys, jewelry, etc.

Dia de los Muertos festivities

The celebration of the Day of the Dead spans three days.

All Souls' Night

On 31 October, families begin preparing the food, decorations and the altar (ofrenda) that will be used during the festivities. People prepare special meals and decorations, sit on the decorated graves, share stories and memories of those who have gone before, sing songs, play music, and generally prepare to spend the night with the spirits of their departed loved ones.

Feast of All Saints

The Feast of All Saints (01 November) is a feast celebrated in honor of all the saints, known and unknown. For the Roman Catholic Church, All Saints' Day honors those who have attained the beatific vision in heaven. This is the day for visitation by the angelitos (spirits of the children who have died).

Feast of All Souls

The Feast of All Souls (02 November) commemorates the faithful departed. This day is observed especially in the Roman Catholic Church. This is the day for visitation of the spirits of adults who have died.

How to construct an ofrenda

The process of making an ofrenda is organic.

Start off with a shallow table, drape some fabric for a background, and go from there. Arrange taller objects toward the back, and smaller ones at the front.

Tip: If you are honoring several people, arrange the items for each person together.

Ofrenda colours

The colours used for altar cloths and decorations have specific meanings within the culture.

The calaveras

la posada catrina Calaveras are popular skull artworks featured during the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration in Mexico. Death is perceived as part of living, not something to fear, and as such is celebrated each year. The calavera (skull) is worn as a mask during celebrations and is recreated in sugar to be placed on family altars.

In this way, one’s deceased relatives are remembered during the celebrations.

Probably the most famous of the calaveras imagery was created by printmaker José Guadalupe Posada in 1913. "La Calavera de la Catrina" ("The Skull of Catrina the Elegant") with her big hat and elegant presence was originally a zinc etching. While not popular in its time, the image of La Catrina has since become a staple of Mexican imagery. It is often incorporated into artistic representations of the Day of the Dead such as altars (ofrendas) and calaveras costumes. Catrina was part of his series of calaveras, which were humorous images of contemporary figures depicted as skeletons, often accompanied by a poem.

La Posada's etchings resemble the woodcuts of the medieval danse macabre, in which people from all walks of life danced fearfully with their own skeletons, although Posada's skeletons seem to have no anxious premonitions about death. His works satirize the Mexican women of high society enjoyed walking in the parks of Mexico City with their beautiful hats and elegant dresses by representing them as skulls and skeletons.

Traditional offerings for an ofrenda

Tealmermaid's Treasure Grotto