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Set up an Altar for Day of the Dead at home and start a family tradition!
In the Mexican culture, we believe that when we remember and celebrate the departed their souls never die, and they continue alive in spirit. That is why setting up a Day of the Dead altar at home adding a picture that best represents the departed and several items we help them in their journey to come back home.
But when to start the preparation of the altar?
On October 28th begins the arrival of the dead who tragically lost their lives. On October 30th and 31st, dedicated to non-baptized children. On November 1st it is the arrival of all those who had an exemplary life, and on November 2, Day of the Dead, all the souls are already with their families celebrating and enjoying their welcoming this is the day that we feast on delicious food, such as tamales, mole, candied pumpkin, atole, coffee, Day of the Dead bread, and much more. We need to start the planning mid-October to be ready with the offering and the planning of the menu no later than October 28th.
Which are the elements a Day of the Dead Altar needs to comply with the syncretism expressions?
Placing an offering that receives the visit of those who have left us is a tradition that has a special mystique. It is about honoring death with the different elements that make up the altar because each piece has a significant spiritual meaning. The offering needs to incorporate Catholic religious aspects as well as all the syncretism expressions to allow the souls to arrive safe and sound at the Mictlán or our home.
When determining the type of offering or altar, we can choose from three types of offerings: two, three or seven levels. The offering with two levels represents the sky and the Earth. The offering has three levels represents the sky, the Earth and the purgatory. The seven-level altar is the full representation of what happens to the deceased in its journey to reach heaven.
Our 3 Level Altar List
- Shop for Cempasúchil or marigold of the dead as well as the red cockscomb flowers. Both have different meanings and provide a colorful set-up. The marigold of the dead evoke the sun and help guide the souls with its unique aroma and fiery color that shows the way back home attracting our faithful departed to our home. And the red celosias or cockscomb flowers represent the blood of Christ.
- You need an arch and a path with the marigold petals. The arc represents the door that welcomes the souls to the living world.
- Shapes or actual figurines of the Monarch butterfly representing the souls that are in their way to visit the world of the living.
- Another element is the copal incense representing the prehispanic ancestry of the Mexican culture. Serves to drive away evil spirits to allow the souls to enter the world of the living safely.
- The image of a dog that will help the departed cross safely.
- You will need several candles; each lit candle represents light, faith, and hope guiding the spirits to arrive and leave safely. Adding purple candles and purple colors signify bereavement.
- Water and salt are other elements needed in the altar. The water is placed to offer a drink to the soul that has traveled for days. It also represents the purity of the soul and life itself. A cross made of salt as a way of preservation and purification of the soul on its trip to the present world and back.
- Sugar skulls in different shapes and sizes, these are a reminder not to fear death as at the end it could be sweet.
- Papercuts using colorful options representing joy.
- Pictures of the departed, preferably when they were young.
- Add images with saints or an image of Virgin Gualadupe.
- Bread, a variety of foods, candies, and fruits.
The list might be long, but you will see everything comes alive and the altar will look beautiful to exceptionally welcoming your beloved.
Are you ready to plan for your family’s Day of the Dead Altar?