Today is the Mexican Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead! Since I am of Mexican descent, the Day of the Dead is something that I grew up with. I remember all of the vivid colors of the skeleton cookies, and the deliciously-sugary psychedelic skulls, and even though I didn't understand it too well as a young boy, what I loved the most about the day of the dead was helping my grandmother with the family altar-- an elaborate multi-tiered monstrosity-- which was meant to celebrate and honor the life of our deceased family members.
Of course, building an altar in honor of your deceased family members is not intrinsic to only Mexico, many different cultures practice this tradition-- so why not build an altar in honor of your ancestors today? It's easy, should take you around an hour, and you can customize it based on what you have on hand.
Here is a suggested list of what traditional Mexican Day of the Dead Altars contain:
- Table with colorful tablecloth
- A backdrop (usually an arch representing the transition to the afterlife, but you can improvise with a beautiful drape)
- Photos of your ancestors
- Food (Fruit and traditional Mexican pastries are the most popular)
- Flowers (I prefer fresh, but many use plastic)
- Sugary Skulls (difficult to find outside of diverse cities, but here is a link to make your own!)
Have fun with this project; perhaps this will inspire you to start a tradition with your own family.
1. Rosemary on the TV
2. Peregrine Blue on Flickr
3. Laurie Zuckerman
4. Mexican Wave on Flickr