Putting It All Together: Day of the Dead Part Four

Today we’re going to be talking about Ofrendas. An ofrenda is an alter, a place to put all your items out on display; it is ideally placed in the heart of your home so your lost loved ones can be remembered throughout the day.

Ofrendas can be made however you want, but traditionally they are constructed in three levels to represent the three stages of death: the death of the body, burial and being forgotten. I made ours on a side table and used a plastic storage box for the second level and two Settlers of Catan boxes for the top.

Tip: This doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. A Day of the Dead alter is easily assembled using things you have, like photos, gloves, cigarette cases etc. of lost loved ones arranged on an existing table top.

Complete Ofrenda Top Level

Middle Level


Some things to consider adding to your ofrenda:

  • Decorations (like flowers and skulls)
  • Photos – Crafty Chica glittered clothespins so she could make a garland of photos for her ofrenda
  • Candles/Incense
  • Personal Possessions
  • Wash Basin and Towel (so the souls can freshen up after their journey home)
  • Food and Drink – there is a lot of history with what you provide, Pan de Muertos is a sweet decorative bread that is often present as are fruits and vegetables to represent the elements of the earth. Of course, sugar skulls are are part of the food offered. Our family will be making sugar skull cookies but it is easy to get the molds to make your own sugar skulls online.

I made decorative sugar skulls from glittered styrofoam skulls I found at the dollar store. After seeing the amazing job Shannon Lucier did making hers I gave it a try. My advice is to use glitter glue. I only had tacky glue and powdered glitter on hand and it was very difficult to do anything detailed. These were embellished with items from my mixed-media color kits.

Since assembling our ofrenda, my three boys have talked a lot about Great Grandma and Great Grandpa and asked to hear their stories. Until I made this, I’m not sure my kids even thought about their ancestors. Both my husband and I feel more connected to our pasts. It really is like our loved ones are less forgotten because we did this. Thanks for embarking on my first Day of the Dead experience with me. It has been a lot of fun.

If you are interested in seeing more art and crafts associated with this wonderful tradition, here are some links to explore:

The work of Sylvia Ji

Day of the Dead Crafts

Artist Jose Guadalupe Posada

Alexander Henry Fabrics


3 Responses

  1. I’ve learned a lot about the Day of the Dead celebration, Thanks!! And, wonderful project!

  2. This whole journey has been wild! SOOOO interesting, all of it.
    I think it is fantastic that this brought your family together.

  3. Hey, Nicole. Wow, very, very cool altar.

    Those skulls are just adorable. I love that you used glitter on them. What fun!

    And what a happy thing to be able to create something that brings the family together and even brings all the wonderful family history alive.

    Great job! =)

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