Your altar can be as simple or as extravagant as you want to make it. Learn how to create a Dia De los Muertos altar with this guide.
What is Dia De Los Muertos?
Dia De Los Muertos or Day of the Dead, is celebrated on Novemeber 1st and November 2nd. Dia de los Muertos is based on the belief that the souls of our loved ones come back to this world on these two days. It is a celebration and a way to remember the life of our loved ones and ancestors.
How to celebrate Dia De Los Muertos
During Dia De los Muertos, we visit our loved ones in the cemetery and decorate their tombs with Cempasuchil (marigold) flowers, papel picado (colorful paper cutouts), calaveras de azucar (sugar skulls), and their favorite treats and bevarages. We also build altars in our home.
What is an Altar?
The Dia De Los Muertos Altar is an offering that is made to honor our loved ones. The belief is that the altar shows the souls their way home. It is a way to show our loved ones that they have not been forgotten.
How can I build an Altar at Home?
Dia De los Muertos Altars can be as simple or as extravagant as you want to make them. You can build your own out of shoe boxes and even mini matchbox shrines. Here are the elements an Altar can have:
- A picture of your loved ones
- The belief is that the scent of the cempasuchil (marigold) flowers will make the souls feel welcome. You can find these flowers at your local Trader Joes or a Mexican store near you. If you cannot find these flowers, you can also make them yourself out of papel picado (tissue paper).
- You can add multiple levels to symbolize heaven and earth. Three levels symbolize heaven, purgatory and earth. Seven levels symbolize the steps a soul makes to heaven.
- An arch symbolizes the entrance to the world of the Dead. You can make yours our of cempasuchil flowers.
- Add a cup of water to help quench the returning sou’s thirst from their long journey.
- Papel Picado (tissue paper) decorated with skulls represents the element of air.
- Pan de Muertos (Day of the Dead Bread) as an offering to the souls. You can make this bread or find it at a Mexican store.
- Sugar skulls to represent death.
- Add your loved one’s favorite foods.
- Candles show the way back home for the souls.
- Add a cruz (cross) to represent the four directions and guide the souls back home.
- A petate (woven carpet) is set on the floor to represent a place where the souls can lay down and rest.
- Add Salt to represent a purifier element.
- Add Personal objects to the altar to make the soul feel at home.
Here is how I made mine with Dollar Tree Items
We created a small altar this year since my son, Leo, loves to get his little hands on everything. Our altar is simple but it was made with love and in remembrance for my grandfather.
I made a trip to the dollar store and purchased a spice rack, the two candle holders and the picture frame. I used the spice rack to create the three levels
On November 1st, I will add my grandpa’s favorite food which was Menudo and his cigarettes. We’ll also do a prayer and I’ll tell my son the memories I have of my grandpa. I am so happy to be able to pass down traditions like this one to my son.