Day of the Dead Altar Decorations
Beneath the lovingly decorated grave itself, the so-called Ofrenda, the home altar for the Dia de Muertos, marks the centerpiece of the family celebrations.
Key elements of the Day of the Dead Altar
First of all, your Ofrenda should display a photo of the deceased person. Yellow and orange Cempasuchil flowers, also known as the sun of the underworld, lead the guests from the realm of the dead into our world. For this reason, marigolds are scattered everywhere - at the cemetery and even on the way from the grave site back home. At home, the flowers unfold their real magic on the Dia de Muertos Altar, displaying the altar gifts in a bright orange light, thus receiving warmly the souls of our dear departed.
Candlelight also provides warmth, but above all it represents light and hope. The candles are traditionally placed on all four corners of the altar, forming a solemn frame for the Ofrenda while helping the departed souls to find their bearings at the place of return.
Copal, the Mexican incense, scares away the evil spirits and allows our beloved deceased to enter the house safely on the Dia de Muertos.
A glass of water quenches the thirst after the long way from the afterlife – well placed and freshly filled every day on the home altar, it will strengthen the dead for their way back. Salt, provided in a small bowl, cleanses the body of the deceased soul and also prepares it for the upcoming year in the other world.
As soon as the basics are taken care of, the further physical well-being of our guests from the realm gains in importance: no Day of the Dead Altar is complete without the favorite festive meal of the dead, always freshly prepared and made from the best ingredients. A bowl of fresh fruit serves as a vitamin snack. As in real life, liquids should not be forgotten, so think of placing soft drinks, beer and wine along with a shot glass of the favourite high-proof liquor. And if a cigar or cigarette after dinner was one of the habits during the deceased's lifetime, it must not be missing amongst the lovingly arranged altar gifts for the Dia de Muertos – because nothing is more idle than to question unhealthy choices at this point.
In preparation of the Dia de los Muertos, Mexican bakeries bake huge amounts of Pan de Muerto. This "bread of the dead", made of yeast dough and decorated with skull and bones, is to be tasted by both the guests from the afterlife as well as the old and young who are living. On the Day of the Dead Altar, Pan de Muerto is an absolute must - it's really easy to bake and recipes can be found in great numbers on the internet.
Finally, we’re coming to the most prominent object of the Day of the Dead - the Sugar Skull. The colourfully decorated skulls made of sugar are often personalized with name tags and mark the highlight of each one of the lovingly decorated tombstones. On the Day of the Dead Altar, the morbid pieces of baking art are an indispensable must, as they tell the deceased souls of the sweet life all the while sweetening the romantic Mexican idea of death to the living. Beneath all necessary ingredients you need to make your own sugar skulls, our Sugar Skull Category provides a ton of inspiration for decoration.
Decoration is also the keyword for another essential part of the Day of the Dead altar: Papel Picado belongs to the Dia de Muertos like avocado belongs to guacamole, as it represents the element wind, which reminds us with its delicate nature of the fragility of life. In our category Papel Picado garlands, we offer a colorful selection of this handmade Mexican specialty, which adds a special touch to all sorts of partys, not only the Day of the Dead.
Last but not least you can add personal items the spirit enjoyed in life like jewelry and other accessoires, grandmas lipstick, grandpas favorite tools or them old playing cards.
Children´s Altars on Dia de los Muertos
A special kind of Day of the Dead altars are those dedicated to the souls of deceased children. These are already opened on the night of October 31st, because the little ones arrive at the crack of dawn on the 1st of November. In contrast to the yellow petals of the marigolds used at the devotional places of the grown-ups, the children's altars on the Dia de Muertos are exclusively decorated with innocent white flowers and candles. Instead of spicy food and other things that make us adults happy, the Day of the Dead Children's Altar holds fruit and nutritious food in addition to a vast array of chocolates, sweets and toys.