Sunday, October 6, 2013

Dia de los Muertos- How and Why to Make an Altar

This year the San Diego North Park Craft Mafia has decided to add a new feature to our Sunday Crafty Sunday Dia de los Muertos Craft Show: altars!  For the minimal fee of $10, you can display a memorial altar to the public during the hours of the Dia de los Muertos Craft Show.  Best of all, your $10 fee will be donated to the Barrio Logan College Institute.

Why make an altar?

            Dia de los Muertos altars are traditionally set up by families in Mexico to honor family members who have died, although you can construct an altar to anyone who has departed the earth.   Los Dias de los Muertos is celebrated on November 1 and November 2 each year, and it is a period of celebration. These altars are typically bright and colorful and are not designed out of sadness or mourning, but out of joy. 

What is an altar for?

           It is believed that on November 2nd the souls of the departed can visit their beloved families in this world.  The lights of candles and petals of marigolds guide each soul to its own altar and house so they can celebrate and consume what has been prepared for them.  Altars are typically constructed on November 1st.

What do I need to make an altar?

          A Day of the Dead altar should include some of the departed’s favorite things plus decorations appropriate to the holiday, such as Mexican sugar skulls, skeletons, and candles.  Other ideas include:

·         Table and or boxes to create the altar on.

·         A tablecloth to cover your table and/or boxes.

·         The arch -  The arch represents the passage between life and death. If you can't get sugar cane stalks, get creative and make your arch out of other materials.

·         A portrait of the departed-  It can be a painting, a picture, etc.

·         Flowerszempoaxochitil (marigolds) are the traditional flower used on the altar. 

·         Food and drink.  Traditional meals and favorites of the departed are prepared and placed on the altar.

·         Pitcher of water and glass to quench the thirst of the departed one.

·         Soap, towel, and water – Just in case the departed wants to wash his/her hands after the long trip and before he/she eats the delicious food.

There are many great resources out there to help you plan your altar.  Here are a few very informative websites:


Here is the link to the Barrio Logan College Institute:

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