How to Make Your Own Altar for Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead is one of the most significant and beautifully unique traditions in Mexican culture. The first two days in November give us an opportunity to remember and celebrate our loved ones who have passed on in a positive way. During these days, it is believed that the souls of the departed come to spend time among the living while they consume the spirit of the food, drink and other offerings left on the altars that are made for them.

If you’re interested in making your own altar for Day of the Dead, here is a list of the basics so that you can honor your loved ones the way we do here in Mexico:

  • A flat surface on which to build your altar
  • Boxes, crates, books or other things to create different levels (if you’re feeling creative)
  • A tablecloth or tissue paper to lay under all the items
  • Photos of the people are honoring with your altar (this is super important!)
  • A glass of water – Said to represent purity and is a source of life. Plus, it hydrates the spirits.
  • Flowers – Marigolds are ideal as their color and scent are a huge representative of the Day of the Dead tradition in Mexico.
  • Candles – Said to represent light and are believed to guide the spirits on their journey back to the land of the living.
  • Food, drink and other offerings – It is custom to place anything on the altar that the person loved while they were living. Cigarettes, beer, wine, favorite foods, books, movies, clothing, or anything you can think of! Everything goes here.
  • Incense – It is also custom to burn copal incense to ward off negative energy or evil spirits.  

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