The Latin American holiday Día de los Muertos, or "Day of the Dead," is all about vibrant colors and celebration. Not only do celebrants view death as simply another stage of life and nothing to be feared, but they also reject mourning ceremonies in favor of bright decorations, elaborate makeup, and a good time with family and friends. Celebrants of the holiday view death as a natural process instead of something to dread, allowing for joyful, positivity filled festivities that instead focus on happy memories of the deceased. The holiday originated in Mexico but is a mix of cultural influences, including elements from Catholicism's All Saints' Day and Aztec ceremonies for Mictecacihuatl, the female ruler of the afterlife. Día de los Muertos is observed in many countries from Nov. 1 to Nov. 2, so read on to discover more about how to celebrate the holiday in style.
Día de los Muertos celebrations center around altars created for deceased friends and family members. These altars are called "ofrendas" or "offerings," a nod to the decorations and gifts used to remember the dead. Each altar is customized based on the individual, featuring pictures of the deceased in addition to colors, patterns, and objects that speak to their unique personalities and passions. Ofrendas also often feature salt, water, and traditional Mexican dishes to nourish departed souls who are being welcomed back home on this holiday. When creating your own ofrenda to honor a family member or friend, try including a festive floral wreath that takes its inspiration from the traditional Día de los Muertos Mexican marigold, also known as the "cempasuchil".
Find Ofrenda Decorations
Sugar skulls and skeleton figurines are staples of Día de los Muertos tradition and demonstrate how death can be beautiful. When creating your ofrendas, add skeletal elements to echo the traditional aesthetic of the holiday. These altars also include festive and colorful "perforated paper" or "papel picado", which also echo the idea of a vibrant and multifaceted observance. Copal, a fragrant type of Mexican incense, is burned in homage to the dead, too. This practice reportedly stems from ancient Aztec practices. While many Día de los Muertos celebrations take place at home, the holiday's participants also decorate the graves of the dead to continue the commemoration. If you're observing the holiday this year, create a rich tableau with skeletal figurines against a bright background of papel picado.
Discover Día de los Muertos Decorations
Skulls, or "calaveras," lend more spirit to the occasion. In contrast to the ghoulishness of Halloween, Día de los Muertos skulls are not supposed to be intimidating or nightmarish. La Calavera Catrina, an iconic element of Día de los Muertos that depicts a female skull, reflects the blend of cultural traditions by embodying both Mictecacihuatl and the legacy of artist Jose Guadalupe Posada's work during the Mexican Revolution to demonstrate the class inequalities characteristic of the era. Today, La Calavera Catrina is an exquisite and meaningful element of the holiday's decorations and commemoration. Some celebrants even apply skull-inspired makeup to evoke the appearance of La Calavera Catrina, though many who observe the holiday stress the importance of recognizing the tradition's origins and significance as they do so. To optimize your own celebration, utilize La Calavera Catrina artwork to inform the decorations you choose for your ofrendas. Figurines with likenesses of La Calavera Catrina make a beautiful addition to celebration decorations.
Shop Calavera Decorations
Celebrating Día de los Muertos is all about personalization to enhance the experience of the holiday and remember those who have passed. If you're seeking ways to customize your ofrendas, here are some additional key pieces you can pick up to add festive flourishes.