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The Day of the Dead Altar

by Daniela Lee on September 30, 2021

 

In Mexico, on November 1st and 2nd, we have a unique tradition when we remember loved ones that have passed, also known as Dia de los Muertos.

One of the most significant customs of this day is to build an "Altar de Muertos." The altar is filled with offerings, foods, beverages, and memorabilia of the departed. We can find these offerings in the schools, malls, restaurants, and usually at the homes of many Mexicans who want to preserve this tradition.

The traditional offerings require specific elements, and each one has a spiritual meaning.  

Cempazuchil Flower - An essential element is a yellow/gold flower or Marigold,  and its intense smell serves as a guide for the dead to come back home.                                                                                        

Velvet Flower - Another flower that we use in the ofrendas. This flower represents grief, and it also symbolizes the loss of our loved ones. 

 

Copal - Copal's strong fragrance serves to clean the space from evil spirits, and it's used to help guide the souls of our loved ones through its aroma. 

 

Candles - The flame signifies light, faith, and hope; the lit candles guide the souls home and light their way back.

Each candle represents a deceased in some indigenous communities, which means the number of candles lit on the altar is the number of souls they want to welcome. When there are purple candles on the altar, that means they are grieving a recent death. The purple candles are placed on a cross to represent the four cardinal points to help the soul find its way back home. 

Water - Water is one of the essential elements in the ofrendas. This is to give them refreshment, but the spiritual meaning is the soul's purity.

White Table Cloth and Salt - These elements serve as purification elements.

 

Calaveritas (Sugar or chocolate skulls) - The Calaveras are made of different ingredients, sizes, and colors. They represent departed souls; they will typically have the deceased's name written on the forehead; this is meant to honor that particular spirit.

Calaveritas are also a symbolic reminder that we will die one day. Accepting death in the Mexican way is a humorous and ironic intention to understand this transcendental moment in life.

 

Photos of the deceased - The photos honor the memory of our ancestors. They are why we dedicate the ofrenda.

 

 

Papel Picado - Papel picado is a colorful china paper cut with skulls, pumpkins, graves, and different figures from this time of the year; they are hung around the altar and represent air.

 

Pan de Muerto - It is a heavenly sweet bread that you can find only during this time of the year. The bread represents a fraternal offering to the souls. 

At the Catrina Shop, Dia de los Muertos is an important tradition; we created a collection that celebrates this day. Click here to view our Dia de los Muertos Collection.

 

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