Are you unsure about how to build an ofrenda for the upcoming Days of the Dead? Here are a couple of examples from one of my trips to Mexico during Dia de los Muertos. Every ofrenda is unique and personal so don’t worry about whether you are doing it correctly or not. The main idea is to make an inviting altar that will entice the spirits of your departed loved ones to return to enjoy a few hours with you over November 1 and 2. Mexicans believe the smells of the flowers, food and copal incense are especially enticing. And the color of orange and magenta is traditional throughout Mexico. So here are a few ideas of what to include:
1. Marigolds: the color and smell of marigolds is believed to attract the spirits. But if you live in a northern climate, like I do, the marigolds are long gone! You can substitute yellow/gold mums or the magenta colored brain flower (if you can find it!). In the shop, I use lots of artificial marigolds that I collect at thrift shops over the year.
2. Candles: Whatever candles you have will suffice. I like to put out the Lux candles with the image of the Virgin on them because they color combination is so inviting. I also purchase the super long ivory colored candles in the Mexican market whenever I can so I carry those in the shop. I use them during my presentations about Dia de los Muertos 101 to give a little taste of the feeling in the cemetery on those special nights of November 1 & 2.
3. Papel picado: “Picked” paper or the cutout paper flags are found at all Mexican fiestas. The papel picado for Muertos usually has images of the catrina or skulls or says, “Dia de los Muertos” on it. It comes in multiple colors and multiple sizes. We carry it at the shop.
4. Sugar skulls: These are fabulous folk art pieces sold in the sugar markets that pop up about now in towns all over Mexico. Toluca has one of the largest and most famous but many cities have them and one can find lots of charming, unique, beautiful skulls made out of sugar. You can have the name of your loved one written across the forehead or not. I carry gorgeous sugar skulls made by a Mexican-American woman in the Twin Cities because they are so fragile and hard to get home in one piece.
5. Photos and favorite objects: Ofrendas include photographs of the deceased which in conjunction with the smells and colors of the flowers, candles and incense help the spirits determine where they should go to reunite and commune with their relatives. Many people also include the favorite foods or beverages of the departed. For children, a favorite toy may be placed on the altar.
I hope you enjoy building your own unique ofrenda to remember and honor your loved ones who have passed away. If you have any questions, just let me know! Click on any of the photos to take you to our online shop or stop in at 826 West 50th in Minneapolis.
The leaves are turning in Minnesota, the yellow mums and purple asters are blooming, the weather is getting cooler, and the wind is whisking in a new season. In Mexico the month of October is a time to begin preparations to entice the departed spirits to return for a brief visit during Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead. It’s a time to start thinking about the home altar, made by many Mexican families, to honor and remember the dead. It’s a time to start preparing the special foods, making the sugar skulls, conceiving of and creating the marigold decorations for the gravesite and the ofrenda, and for the candlemakers to make the gorgeous candles that will decorate the cemetery and the home. It’s both a private time and a public time.
Someone once likened Dia de los Muertos to a combination of Memorial Day and Thanksgiving. November 1 and 2 are a public acknowledgement of the important people in our lives who have passed on much like what we do for Memorial Day. And it’s similar to Thanksgiving in that families prepare traditional foods and follow familiar rituals like so many American families do for Thanksgiving. The traditional colors of yellow and purple are always associated with Muertos in Mexico and the smells of the flowers and the burning copal cannot be mistaken for any other time of the year. It’s a very spiritual time–derived from the ancient rituals of the Aztec mixed with some of the teachings of the Catholic church–a time when people express their love for those who’ve died through storytelling and building ofrendas or altars.
So, what about the folk art? Lots of skeletons, large and small, made of a variety of media, skulls made of everything including sugar and lots of embellishments like papel picado, candles, and flowers. The folk art is used to decorate the ofrendas and to remind everyone that death is part of life. It also can provide a little humor. We are thrilled to have a lovely rotating ofrenda in the front window created by a local artist, Liz Pangerl of Casa Valencia, LLC which incorporates many of the traditional Day of the Dead motifs and items. Stop in!
Some of these things are in the online shop and some are not. Click on the photo to take you to the online shop.
Let me know if you’re interested in a price or purchasing something via this handy form….Happy Dia de los Muertos!
Good Morning Sugar Skulls!
I just put the sugar skulls in the online shop so if you are getting ready for Dia de los Muertos and need to add an incredible, one of a kind sugar skull that will last for 10-15 years (if protected from water and sun) you should click here or come into the shop at GUILD this week.
Sorry if I seem a little obsessed with these sugar skulls! I took a few more photos to show you how incredibly awesome they are. The top three photos are the large size ($30) and the bottom photo is a tray of small sugar skulls with magnets on the back ($10 each). How about on the refrigerator?
They are not for sale on the website but send me a message below if you’d like to purchase and we can make arrangements. We can arrange for shipping or you can pick them up at the shop. You better do it soon though because they are going fast!
Or stop in at GUILD, 4414 Excelsior Blvd, St. Louis Park, MN to see them in person…
Sugar skulls are literally skulls made out of sugar used to decorate ofrendas (altars or shrines) during the first two days of November called, Day of the Dead. They are made from molds–you can purchase molds on line from Mexican Sugar Skull–if you are so inclined and are looking for a great project to do with kids or just want to try letting your own creative spirit go.
In Mexico, there are several places that are very well known for their “sugar markets” during the week or so preceding Muertos. I’ve seen some absolutely beautiful and amazing items made of sugar in Toluca, Morelia and San Miguel de Allende. The skulls often will have names, of the person who is deceased, written across the forehead on the tissue paper or just on the skull itself. And they come in lots of different colors and styles.
The sugar skulls featured above are currently at GUILD and are the medium size for $20. We also have a larger and smaller size. They are made by a local artist. They are fragile but will keep for 10-15 years if stored in a cool and dry place. They add a bit of whimsy and authenticity to any Day of the Dead ofrenda or celebration.
Stop in to see the full array of these stunning sugar sculptures!
Hi Everyone! Here’s what you’ll see when you walk in the door at GUILD starting tomorrow morning at 11 am. Yep, those are sugar skulls with amazing flower head pieces–every one is different. Sugar skulls can last for 10-15 years if you store them in a cool and dry place when you’re done displaying. They are a little fragile so it would make sense to keep it in a small box. And this year, we have sugar skulls in a medium and small size. The small ones have magnets on the back. Very clever.
The black catrinas are made by the Perez family from the most well known catrina-making city in Mexico, Capula. Both catrinas are stunning, capturing movement and detail like very few I’ve seen. To your left of this photo is the Zinnia Folk Arts corner, FILLED to the max with tons of skeletons, catrinas, masks, retablos, jewelry and tons more I can’t even remember. Be sure to check it out…the event goes from tomorrow (Tuesday, Oct 11) through Saturday, October 22. Come early for the best selection!