Dias De Los Muertos
Traditions for celebrating the dead and how to make your own altar.
Living in San Antonio, Texas you start to enjoy alot of Hispanic culture and holidays. Not to mention the best food ever made. During spring the city celebrates Fiesta, a holiday that honors the memory of the heroes of the Battle of the Alamo and the Battle of San Jacinto. Cinco de Mayo is another great holiday that celebrates the Mexican victory over the French army at Puebla de los Angeles in 1862.
Almost like the feista holiday which honored the fallen soldiers Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead in English), which is held on November 1, is a celebration for families and friends to pray and remember their deceased love ones. For this special holiday altars are made and decorated with pictures, rosaries, and candles. Along with visiting the gravesite of the departed, the headstones are decorated and ofrendas (offerings in English) are given.
The deceased's favorite food and drink, along with trinkets, are placed either on the grave or in an alter, as a welcome gesture for the loved one. The food is an amazing representation of how families connect with each other during this holiday. Pan de Muerto (Bread of the dead) is a sweet egg bread which comes in a round or skull shape. There is also the sugar skull, a dessert decorated with various colors of frosting, which is a gift that can be given to both living and dead.
The most noticable of all Day of The Dead traditions are Calavera (skulls) and Calaca (skeletons shown in joyful occasions), which are decoration for altars and grave sites. For many people, certain trinkets and gifts give good luck.
The celebration goes on until the next day (All Souls' Day) when Catholic Church commemorates the faithful departed. Since the death of my Grandfather I have enjoyed this holiday and what it brings in celebrating his life. Altars can be many sizes and can have so many meanings when decorated a certain way. Kathy Cano-Murillo aka the Crafty Chica has many projects to adorn your house this year, as well as a travel size version of an altar, made from an altoids tin, which I have tried out to place on my Grandfather's grave. It included a picture of him, a button from one of his pajamas and a label from his favorite cigars. I put it in my bag and take it with me where ever I go.
Another great idea I had in mine was to actually use one of my Grandfather's cigar boxes to make a bigger altar:
This altar will be part of the San Antonio 2nd Annual D.I.Y Factory on Nov 15th, 2008 at La Plaze Del Rey Ballroom. People will be able to make their own mini shrines for love ones at our Make-N-Take table. Once they are done they can take it home and celebrate the following years to come.