Day of the Dead or ‘Dia de los Muertos’ in Spanish is the Latino variation of the Catholic holy day of All Saints Day. Hispanic families gather at the graves of loved ones to honor deceased family members. They also create family altars. Here’s how to make a Day of the Dead memorial shrine. The Day of the Dead shine or altar can be set up either indoors or outdoors. If you make an outdoor grotto shrine, you’ll want to erect a canopy or enclosure to prevent the items from getting damaged if they are rained upon. The Dia de los Muertos shrine may as large as a outdoor shed or as small as a table top shrine.
For a smaller indoor shrine, you will need:
— A table (card table, folding table or larger utility table work well)
— Festive blanket, quilt or brightly colored cloth to drape over the table (this may even be a special blanket made by the deceased person)
— Framed images of the deceased person or persons
— Votive or altar candles (these may be decorated or plain candles in decorated holders). See my article How to Make a Day of the Dead Votive Candle.
— Decorated skeleton or skull: Some families use a skeleton or skull theme, dressing the skeleton to resemble the deceased person.
— Flowers- silk or fresh; choose flowers that were favorites of the deceased
— Small potted tree- silk or real
— Treasured objects belonging to the deceased or reminders of them: war medals, military insignia, awards, trophies, letters written by the deceased, memorabilia
— Jewelry, clothing, accessories favored by the deceased
— Handmade goods created by the deceased (knitting, crochet, blankets, sewing, wood or metal projects, works of art)
— Items that represent interests of the deceased: flags, animal images, favorite books, club insignia, sports equipment, camera, tools used in their trade
— Food for the journey in the afterlife
— CD playing religious music (hidden beneath the table)
— Religious objects: statues, icons, holy cards, religious medals, scapular, rosary, Bible, Crucifix
The idea is to create a place that commemorates the accomplishments and life of the deceased. Many families use the altars as places of worship and prayer.