Today I want to share something very dear and near to my heart. I know that a lot of people are already familiar with the Mexican holiday called Day of the Dead, but for those of you who don’t know, I will fill you in on a little bit about the tradition. Day of the Dead is ancient Mexican holiday that is celebrated on November 2. It is the day that we remember the souls of lost loved ones, and it is believed that they travel here to visit the living realm. You see, the ancient Mexican culture believed that you could die two deaths. One, being the physical death, and two, being the worst, is that the soul would die if it was forgotten. So they created this beautiful day of remembarance. It is a day in which families celebrate the lives of their lost loved ones by making an ofrenda or alter. These are typically tables, or any structure in your home that can be decorated with pictures, and items that belonged to them, or things that he or she enjoyed in life!
This includes food items and water, so that the soul can replenish their energy after their long trip to visit you in the living realm. Some people also use incense. Since Day of the Dead is a celebration of their life, lots of bright and happy colors are used. As is typical for anything in the Mexican culture, we tend to be a happy, strong and not very serious culture. The two things that we are serious about is love and our fiestas.
These ofrendas are always so intricate and lovely. You can tell that people put a lot of care and love into decorating them. They are usually decorated with serapes, sugar skulls, skeletons, marigolds, monarch butterflies, food, water and colorful paper (these are the traditional items) and anything else that you can think up! For example, my grandpa used to love colored Christmas lights- so I used them all around his alter! Also, there are items that have been given by my brothers and sisters and my cousin, such as paper flowers, hand written notes, and arts & crafts that have been placed on this alter. I know that he would absolutely love it!
You will also need a lot of candles, to help guide the soul back home. You can choose to cook some of their favorite dishes, or buy their favorite snacks and drinks! There is also a traditional Pan De Muerto, which is a bread loaf that is typically used by the Mexican people.
My grandpa loved Coors light and the Braves as well, so I added a few touches of his personality. The puppet here is also one from his collection, and has a lot of memories for me. I started making this alter when he passed a long time ago. Since then, My sweet grandmother (his wife) and my maternal grandfather also passed. I have also added their pics here onto this alter, but intend to create a new one that also includes their names. It is definitely one of the hardest things that I am having to do this year, having been really close to my grandmother, it’s hard to put in the motion to create the perfect space.A letter to my Grandma
With that being said, there are so many ways that you can honor your loved ones on this day. If you live in an apartment, or are just pressed for space or time, you can always get a frame and set it up with a candle somewhere in your home, or light several candles, and add some of their personal items around it. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, to be right. This is what makes this holiday so special. It gives you a chance to celebrate their life, remember them, and invite them into your heart, where I know they permanently stay, but it’s nice to take time out of your busy life once a year, and bring their memory to life with lights, colors and celebration.
If you would like to spice things up a notch, cook some Mexican food, drink a margarita and play some festive music!! Pandora has Mexican stations that would set the perfect ambiance (think mariachi). Remember, it is sad to remember the loss, but it is happy to remember the joy that they brought to our lives, and memories of my grandparents always bring a smile to my face 🙂
This is a picture of my sister and me with our faces painted as calaveras- which is a tradition for this festival.
I hope that you will be encouraged to start an alter this year, or to research this subject, as there is a lot of history that I couldn’t cover in just one post. Remember, this is a celebration, and should be treated as such! Thank you for allowing me to share my personal experience with you. There aren’t enough words to share what this means to me. I am so happy that I discovered a bright and happy way to remember them! I hope that you do too.
VIVA LA VIDA!!!!