10 STEPS TO BUILD YOUR OWN DÍA DE LOS MUERTOS ALTAR
At Reina Rebelde, we are really into Día de los Muertos! It’s a tradition that we always celebrated growing up - my mother LOVED collecting things in Mexico, skulls, catrinas and funny things to celebrate our departed almas queridas. When I started putting up my own altar, it was the size of a shoe box, but it gets bigger every year. It has become an obsession of mine for many reasons, but the main one is this: it gives me the opportunity to properly honor my deceased loved ones. With the madness of 2020 in particular, this year will be very solemn but this altar will be even more important in our house. Building the altar takes time and thought and gives me a moment to pause and really reflect on those I have lost, what they loved before they crossed over, my memories of them, and the legacy they leave behind. I believe anyone can have a great altar - it is magic!
A FEW EASY STEPS & IDEAS BELOW:
- First off, there are no rules - it is really about finding offerings and recuerditos that would make your loved ones happy.
- Find a great spot in your house (low traffic but high visibility) where you can light candles. (Please be careful, I've almost started several fires at home, so do not leave anything unattended when the candles are lit!)
- Decide whether you will have one level or multiple levels. I usually pick a table, and then use smaller boxes to create different levels below the table.
- Cover your base with a tablecloth, piece of fabric or a flag.
- Set your largest pieces out first to establish the anchors of the altar -- for me those are my Tree of Life candelabras, Virgen de Guadalupe, big skulls, and larger bowls (for offerings).
- Spread a variety of candles and votives out - I usually have 50-75. The more you have, the more magical it is, but make sure to blow every single one out!
- Add the photos of your departed loved ones all over the altar - including pets, strangers or icons that you want to honor too. I always put a picture of Selena, Frida Kahlo, and postcards I have of the Twin Towers prior to 9/11. I have a whole section dedicated to my dog that passed a couple of years ago with his favorite treats and his leash. And this year, in addition to several personal losses, I will also be honoring all the people we have lost in this pandemic.
- If available to you, put flowers (yellow marigolds are customary), pan de muertos, sugar skulls and catrinas to fill the rest of the altar.
- Now for the fun part - ofrendas! Think of all the things your loved ones would have enjoyed and have a sense of humor about it, they will appreciate it. I put out tequila, candy, favorite albums, lipsticks, dog treats and old favorite toys, photos of places they loved to visit, favorite books - really there is no limit to what you can put out as an offering. My aim is to always make an offering that is food based, one that is drink based, and one that is funny and would make them laugh.