The Day of the Dead tradition originates in Mexico, but it has recently acquired a following in the US.

If you’re interested in putting together an altar for the Day of the Dead, the first thing you should know is that the holiday isn’t celebrated in one day. It is celebrated over several days from October 31st through November 2nd. The Day of the Dead is a gathering for family and friends to pray for and remember loved ones who have passed. It is believed that this celebration will help loved ones in their spiritual journey post passing.

In order to put together a proper Day of the Dead altar, you will need the following items:

1. Candles – Candles are a symbol of the fire element, and they are used for their religions association. It’s common to include one candle for each soul you’re celebrating, in addition to a candle for each soul that may be forgotten.

Day of the Dead Candles

2. Pictures – In anticipation of their “visit”, set photographs of those you’re celebrating.

3. Flowers – Flowers, especially Marigolds are used often because their beautiful bright color and scent are thought to attract the dead. Many times, flowers are placed in the form of a cross.

Marigold- Day of the Dead Flower

4. Salt – Salt is a symbol of purification. Set a small container or glass with salt.

5. Incense – Burn incense like opal resin incense or other aromatic herbs such as chamomile.

6. Perforated paper – Perforated paper is popular in Mexican celebrations. The images that are featured in perforated paper correspond to the occasion, so you should select a paper that celebrates the day of the dead.

Day of the Dead Perforated Paper

7. A glass of water – With a goal to represent all four elements, pour a glass of water and set it on your alter.

Four Elements

You’ll notice that so far, our list includes, lit candles for fire, delicate paper that moves in the wind, and dirt represented by flowers.

8. Skulls – To remind of the final destiny of every human being

9. Day of the Dead bread, food and drink – Souls have traveled from far and will need to recover their energies with good food and drink. Traditionally, you can offer the favorite meals of the souls you’re celebrating

Day of the Dead Bread

10. Religions artifacts – The Day of the Dead can be traced back to the Aztecs, but today holiday is a result of the mixture of both Aztec and Spanish cultures so religious artifacts became important in the celebration and the Day of the Dead altar

11. Artifacts that represent the souls you are celebrating. For example playing cards if they enjoyed playing poker, or cigarettes if they smoked.


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