Friday, November 2

Today is Dia de los Muertos! All about ofrendas!

Altar for  her ancestors, by Yoli Manzo,
 Today is Dia de los Muertos and while the mainstream world thinks that only involves adorable sugar skulls and clever skull designs, I'm here to share the true foundation of what it's all about - the ofrenda!

November 1st and 2nd are the days when the spirits who have crossed over are able to rejoin their loved ones for one night. November 1st is for the children, and November 2nd is for the adults. In Mexico, many families visit the gravesites and decorate the area with marigold flowers, copal candles,  and a hot plate of food (the scents help the spirits find their way here).
Decorated grave in Mexico. Photo by Maria Fowler,
Some don't go to the cemetery at all and instead build an ofrenda big or small in their own home. Some use a whole bedroom, while others are content with the top of a dresser, or even their front porch, like Yoli!

Here is a personal alter made by
Here in America, we have our own version that is grounded in tradition, yet incorporates a contemporary spin. Maura Hernandez of TheOtherSide has a wonderful article that breaks it all down!

Here are some other ofrendas to check out!
Ofrendas aren't always dedicated to specific people. Arizona artist Emily Costello made this installation in honor of abducted children. She has toys, candies and candles of the guardian angels to protect and help guide the children in the afterlife.

Collective ofrenda - This is an altar my craft group made for Frida Kahlo. We added strands of mini lights to make it all glow! We each contributed components that were special to us.

My husband made this one! The theme is Eternal Love and celebrates his grandparents wedding.The dresser is is Grandma Minnies, it's 75 years old. The dress and veil is also hers. He created the body from papier mache. She is looking into the mirror reflecting on her wedding day.

Matchbox Shrine by MicroJivvy
While some people go big with their altars, others go micro - check out this teeny-tiny matchbox ofrenda made by MicroJivvy at DollHouse Miniatures!

The day is young, there is still time ot make an altar for loved one! Here is how to do it!
If you are looking for crafty ideas, and even more info about altars, I have all that here.

Happy Dia de los Muertos!

Kathy :-)


JoJo said...

I'm just wondering why the USA is celebrating Mexican holidays. It's one of my many pet peeves. We don't observe Canada Day, Canadian Thanksgiving, Guy Fawkes Day, Boxing Day, etc., so why Day of the Dead and Cinco de Mayo?

Kathy Cano-Murillo said...

Dia de los Muertos actually is celebrated by other cultures too (not called dia de los muertos) - it's a celebration of life. I've learned that people from all cultures appreciate/identify with the holiday because of its universal theme of honoring loved ones who have passed.

And the more diversity the better! I would love to see people celebrate holidays from other countries! Please share your faves and the crafts/artful approach you see or take! Please share :-)

Anonymous said...

Dia de los Muertos spans throughout South America (and beyond) as well, it is not just localized in Mexico.

Cinco de Mayo is huge in New Mexico, with our large Hispanic populations (of Mexican decent). I am sure its like that in other states in the U.S. as well.

Anonymous said...

Well said " The more diversity the better" , you rock !

Anonymous said...

The USA doesn't celebrate Dia de los Muertos. Some people in the USA do. Why is it a pet peeve what others choose to celebrate? If you want to celebrate Boxing Day, have at it. Canadian Thanksgiving, go for it! If there is a tradition that you feel isn't getting enough attention, then by all means, make it happen.

Anonymous said...

Why Not Jojo ? Most cultures have holidays to commemorate the Dead. Memorial/Decoration day is just a modern version, specific to honoring fallen military.Halloween is a fusion of the Catholic All Soul's/All Saint's with Celtic festival of Samhain(sow-een)that marked the end of summer and a time when the ancestral spirits are close to us.Most 'modern' holidays are either a syncetization of indigenous and immigrant/colonizer customs or new creations. America is a multicultural nation and I agree with Ms. Cano- Murillo " the more diversity the better ".

Nutmeg said...

I think Americans don't have a lot of our 'own' celebrations. Thanksgiving and 4th of July maybe? Something in the human spirit loves ceremony and fun. So we adopt others.

I was raised in the San Francisco bay area. i thought I was Asian for the first 12 years of my life, so moon cakes, red money envelopes, firecrackers are all part of 'me'.

AND never underestimate the FOOD!!! I appreciate it, thanks for sharing Kathy!!!!

Anonymous said...

Season your life Jojo!

Margot Potter said...

I think, ultimately, it comes down to people celebrating their cultures and this country being a melting pot. After all, the only original North American traditions would be those celebrated by the indigenous peoples of this country who were here long before Europeans and others arrived bringing their own traditions along. Halloween as we know it in this country is derived from the Irish holiday of Samain, the Catholic/Christian All Hallow's Eve holiday came later. Many of the traditions of Christmas are derived from Germanic celebrations that reflected ancient Pagan rites and rituals and Greco-Roman traditions. And so it goes, things shifting and changing as cultures collide and to me, it's fascinating and beautiful.

Anonymous said...

In Puerto Rico All Souls Day is celebrated on November 2. It is believed that our relatives come to visit us because they miss us. I love the idea of making a shrine to my loved ones. So this year I plan to make a small shrine. Thank you Cat Cano Murillo for all your fabulous ideas.

Pablo Goebel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pablo Goebel said...

I love Margot's answer. If we are too narrow-minded to accept the diverse cultures of the people we associate with every day, perhaps a relocation to a remote island is in your future. We need to get over this pervasive elitism that states that if it's not American, it's unacceptable.

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