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DIY: Day of the Dead Altar

Oct 26, 2015

While Halloween is a time to scare people with ghosts and the dead, the Day of the Dead is a time to celebrate ghosts and the dead. A traditional Mexican holiday, Día de los Muertos is a time when the souls of the deceased are showered with gifts and given great respect. The days leading up to November 1st, Mexican families create altars to the deceased and decorate them with flowers, sugar skulls, pictures of the loved one and the loved one’s favorite food. On November 1st and 2nd the offerings are intended to nourish the departed soul and give them comfort in the afterlife.

Some families have large intricate altars where they install a structure to cover with photos and foodflowers and gifts. Other altars are simple, small clusters of beloved objects and food.

To create your own altar you can choose whatever size works for you. The most important part of building your altar is to think about the person who has passed and celebrate them and the things they loved.


  • A cleared space
  • Photos of a loved one who has died
  • Belongings of the deceased person- a piece of jewelry, a favorite book.
  • Food that the deceased loved
  • Flowers- marigolds are very typical as the strong smell is meant to attract the soul to the altar
  • Candles- meant to welcome the spirits to the altar
  • Bright paper or fabric

Photos, Marigolds, Candles, Paper to Celebrate a LifePhotos, Marigolds, Candles, Paper to Celebrate a LifeCourtesy of ehow.com


  1. Clear a prominent space in the house. Use a tabletop, windowsill or mantle, somewhere where it can be seen.
  2. Lay out a piece of brightly colored fabric or paper. The bright color shows that this is a celebration of someone’s life and a happy event, not a sad one.
  3. Arrange the photos, whether in frames or just the photos, it doesn’t matter, as long as they are visible.
  4. Add the belongings of the deceased, their favorite foods, flowers and candles.
  5. Remember the ones who came before you and celebrate them!

Every Altar is as Unique as the Person it's Dedicated toEvery Altar is as Unique as the Person it's Dedicated toCourtesy of globalexchnage.org

Everybody’s altar will look different, just as every loved one the altar is dedicated to is different. And though this tradition may seem morbid and dark to some, in Mexican culture this is a cheerful day. Try out a different point of view and make your own Day of the Dead Altar!

Have Your Say

Who will your Day of the Dead Altar celebrate? What were their favorite foods and belongings? Share your stories in the comments section below.



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Where is the Day of the Dead celebrated?

  • It’s no longer celebrated
  • All of Latin America
  • Mexico and Spain
  • Southern Mexico

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