Celebrating Dia de los Muertos

My husband and I share similar backgrounds - Irish, German, Catholic - so there is little diversity in our household by default. In the current political climate, I think it is paramount that we inject some outside influences into our boys’ life. This year, we have decided to celebrate Dia de los Muertos, a Mexican holiday that translates into “Day of the Dead.”

If you’re familiar with the Pixar movie, Coco, (which is really good btw!), Dia de los Muertos is the holiday on which the movie focuses. Having studied Spanish throughout my schooling, I was familiar with the basics of the holiday but this movie really struck a cord with me and showed me the true meaning.

The importance of family, living and dead, is the central theme. I love the thought that our passed family members are watching over us and know all about our lives and accomplishments. As someone who didn’t grow up with many living grandparents, I love that my kids are experiencing such a loving relationship with all their grandparents. It is such a treat to watching them all be together. It warms my heart to think that my grandparents are watching their kids be grandparents, and their grandchildren be parents, and their great-grandchildren grow into well rounded men.

To honor those important to us who have passed, particularly my grandparents, we are celebrating Dia de los Muertos on November 1. Of course, this is not your traditional Dia de los Muertos (hey, this is my first try!). If you’re interested in celebrating as well, here’s are the must haves for a DIY gringa Dia de los Muertos!

  1. Offrenda

    The offrenda is the altar around which the celebration occurs. Traditionally, the offrenda is three layers to represent the underworld, the earth, and Heaven. The altar usually is covered in one purple tablecloth and one lacy. This article from Buzzfeed is my source for how to set up an offrenda properly. I will have to alter my altar a bit because babies and things on the ground don’t mix.

  2. Marigolds

    Marigolds are the traditional flower of Dia de los Muertos. They are a brightly colored and potent flower that is intended to guide the dead to the living. Since I am very allergic to flowers, and have the blackest thumb, I opted for tissue paper marigolds using this DIY guide. (Instead of wire I used a thin piece of tape.)

  3. Food

    It is customary to welcome the dead with their favorite dishes. Nothing says, “Hey, I miss you,” like a food.

  4. Skulls

    I’m not sure if this is American-ization of the holiday or not, but skull imagery is used on everything. Brooks is hit or miss on what scares the pants off him, so we will be going light on the skulls. Likely just some plates and maybe some cake pops. If the kid is afraid of cake pops, I’m giving him back.

  5. Photos

    The altar is decorated with photos of your passed family members. In Coco, if a family member’s photo doesn’t sit on the offrenda, they cannot pass through from the land of the dead to the land of the living. Jus sayin’.

  6. Papel Picado

    These are the colorful banners you typically see as decoration. I’ll be following this DIY guide.

Feliz Dia de los Muertos!