Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a Mexican holiday where family and friends gather to honor and remember loved ones who have died. The holiday is celebrated on Nov. 1 and 2 to align with the Catholic holidays All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day. Since it's traditionally believed that the souls of the departed come back to visit the living, altars offering sweets, food and drink, and memorabilia are arranged in homes. Family and friends also gather at cemeteries to clean and decorate the graves and socialize.
If you're looking to create a Dia de los Muertos altar in your home, here are some tips for incorporating traditional and personal elements.
- Find a fitting space
This could be a window seat or a simple console. Lay down a pretty textile as your base.
To add some dimension, break up the height by placing stacks of books or other household items and covering them with your base textile. If the textile piece you're working with is too small, use cloth napkins in coordinating colors.
- Gather your memorabilia
Find favorite photos of the person you are honoring and display trinkets that tell a story about who the person was. This could be something as basic as a deck of cards, balls of colorful yarn, or other items that belonged to the person.
Keep reading for more tips on creating a Dia de los Muertos altar in your home!
- Add flowers
Traditionally, marigolds are either sprinkled throughout the altar or stringed and hung decoratively, but feel free to use the person's favorite bloom as well.
- Offer food and drink
Sweet bread is traditional, but fruit, nuts, and other nonperishables are great substitutes. Adding a bottle of wine or spirits is also common practice.
- Introduce lighting
Candles are the classic way to add lighting and are used in prayer, but intertwining white Christmas lights can also achieve a similar effect.
- Show off your skeletons
While skeletons are used to spook people for Halloween, Dia de los Muertos uses them in a playful, happy manner, symbolizing the dead mimicking the living. Sugar skulls can double as your sweet and your decoration, but skeleton artwork or figurines work just as well.