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Papel picado serves as a colorful and meaningful trim: black represents death, purple means grief of mourning, pink is celebration, white symbolizes hope and yellowstands for the sun.
Sugar skulls, or calaveras, add a lighthearted touch, for both the dead and the living.
Cempasuchitl, the Aztec term for "marigolds" is the traditional flower used to honor the dead. It reflects the fleeting nature or life. Their aroma helps lure a spirit back.
Photograph(s) of the person(s) the altar is dedicated to help loved ones to remember them while they were in the prime of their lives.
Pan de muerto or "bread of the dead" is a sweet treat. Found at most panaderias, the round loaf is topped with a skull and crossbones.
Candles represent the cardinal directions and provide a lighted path to this world.
Salt, a symbol of purification, is for the dead to season the food you've offered them.
Christian iconography such as a Virgin Mary and Holy Cross reveal the holiday's European roots.
The deceased's favorite knickknacks, tools, or toys (for children) create a familiar setting for their return.
Four main elements of nature are found on an altar:
Wind: The papel picado also lets loved one know when the spirits have arrived.
Earth: The soul is nourished by favorite family dishes that represent the crops of the earth. Common edibles include fruit, mole, chocolate, and atole.
Fire: Visiting souls are illuminated from the shadow of death by candles. Each one represents a departed soul. Additional candles are added for forgotten souls.
Elements of an Ofrenda
Coronilla, S. and Zisk. M (2013). Day of the Dead: From pre-Columbian roots to today. The Orange County Register. Retrieved from https://www.ocregister.com/2013/11/01/day-of-the-dead-from-pre-columbian-roots-to-today/
Google Doodle. Retrieve from https://www.google.com/doodles/day-of-the-dead-2011
Valdez, A. (2009). A Dia de los Muertos altar. Texas Monthly, 37(11), 46. https://www-proquest-com.proxy.library.cpp.edu/docview/226958238?accountid=10357
Create a Virtual Altar
Use this background to create your own personal virtual altar. Designs created by Marilu Salcedo, Library Services Specialist.