November first marks the annual day of remembrance, in Mexican culture, for those who have died. Día de Muertos, or The Day of the Dead, is a tradition that stretches back to the pre-colonial days in Mexico. It's believed that the souls of the dead return to their families for a celebration of their life.
One way in which this celebration is honored is through the creation of an Ofrenda, or offering, displayed on an altar. The Ofrenda can be customized as you like, though many do have some common elements.
- Photos of friends or family
- Candles and incense
- flowers, such as marigolds or cempasúchil
- Favorite foods
- Decorations, such as paper flowers or skulls.
How do you build the ofrenda?
- The first thing is, or course, a table. It does not have to be a special kind. The table is draped with a decorative tablecloth. It is customary in Mexican culture to use a serape, which has its own distinct striped pattern. Ofrendas may also have several layers – the top layer represents heaven while the base represents earth. To achieve this, you can stack boxes underneath the tablecloth.
- Add marigolds. The bright color and strong scent of cempasúchil is believed to make it the path for deceased loved ones easier to find their way back to you.
- The light from candles is also an element that helps spirits return.
- Add your loved ones' favorite foods to the altar as an offering.
- Figurines or colorful skulls represent the cycle of life and death.
- Pictures of those you've lost.