Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, is a festive holiday celebrated throughout México, and by many Mexican families in the United States, in late October or early November. The rituals are rife with symbolic meaning, but the centerpiece of the holiday is an altar (ofrenda), built in private homes and cemeteries.
It is believed that the souls of our departed loved ones make the long journey back to world of the living on November 1st at midnight. While the theme is death, the point of the holiday is to demonstrate love and respect for deceased family members. In towns and cities throughout Mexico, there are fiestas, food, music and many festivities that go long into the night. Family and friends dress in bright makeup and costumes and place offerings onto the altars. Join me as I share with you what the items on my altar represent:
Cazadores is an authentic Mexican tequila brand. This limited edition Dia de Los Muertos bottle of Tequila Blanco was designed by Mexican artist Victoria Villasana. While in London, she began to make embroidered patterns on top of imagery as a hobby, and eventually started to draw inspiration from East London street art. Victoria currently resides in Mexico where she continues to create art through installations and commercial work, collaborating with artist and brands from all over the world. Read more about Victoria Villasana.
Sugar Skulls – Sugar skulls are made from pure sugar and given to friends as gifts. They are elaborately decorated, and their colorful designs represent the vitality of life and individual personality.
- Candles – The burning candles represent fire, and help guide the dead back home.
- Marigolds – The bright marigold flowers attract the souls with their color and aroma by guiding the dead ones home.
- Monarch Butterflies – The Monarch butterflies migrate to Mexico each fall and are believed to be the spirits of the dead coming to visit.
Una Copita de Tequila – A shot of tequila or alcohol favored by the dead, is customary to leave for the deceased when they return. This year, I am using Tequila Cazadores’ limited edition Dia de Los Muertos bottle of Tequila Blanco, designed by Mexican artist Victoria Villasana. The bottle depicts the prideful Cazadores stag alongside two traditional Día de los Muertos sugar skulls. The design is a nod to Cazadores’ and Victoria’s Mexican heritage and also captures the aura of the Highlands of Jalisco – a place that Cazadores is proud to call home.
Papel Picado – The bright paper colored cut-outs represents the air as it slowly sways above the altar.
Fruit – Fruits and seeds represent the earth.
Pan de Muerto – This is a semi sweet bread that is eaten on the second day of the holiday. The shapes of the bones and skull adorn the bread that is dusted with sugar. It also represents the soil. Find a recipe here: https://pinaenlacocina.com/pan-de-muertoday-of-the-dead-bread-mexican-chocolate/
Traditional foods – Traditional foods, such as tamales, mole and candy made from pumpkin, as well as foods favored of the deceased, are placed on the altar. Candies are placed for the deceased children of the families.
Water – A cup of water to quench the thirst of the deceased after their long journey back to the world of the living.
Salt – Salt in Latin culture, is considered the spice of life. It also represents purification.
This is a paid partnership with Tequila Cazadores. All opinions are 100% my own.
This is beautiful,you are so very talented. This post really touches the heart!
This is a beautiful article -thank you so much!!
THANK YOU Denise!!
Beautifully written and photographed! Although I’m Mexican, I don’t have family that was able to share the culture.
You wrote the best explanation of this holiday that I have ever seen. Thank you mucho
Thank you so much Rachel.
Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful tradition. This is a great way to honor the deceased and help guide them back home.
You’re welcome John. I really enjoy the whole process of building my altar every year.
Your altar drew me to a halt when I saw the picture of the Maine Coon cat who looks exactly like our Miss Lena! Definitely must had been a beloved fur baby. Thank you very much for the great memories that created.
Thank you Ann. El Guapo was his name and he was very special to my husband and I. He died suddenly right in front of us. He was only 4 years old and such a sweet boy. We are thankful for the time we had with him. I still feel him near me some days.