5 Steps To Follow To Make An Ofrenda For Día De Muertos
Start writing a post

5 Steps To Follow To Make An Ofrenda For Día De Muertos

Día de Muertos proves that death doesn't stop anything; it can't stop love and it can't stop family.

5 Steps To Follow To Make An Ofrenda For Día De Muertos

Hello, friends! It is that time of year again! My favorite holiday second only to Christmas is right around the corner, Día de Muertos. Day of the Dead, as it is known here in the states, is a beautiful holiday originally celebrated in Mexico. The belief is that over the course of November 1 and 2, the dead are able to return to the land of the living and visit their loved ones.

This semester, I'm taking probably one of the coolest courses I've taken in college, a philosophy course called "Confronting Death." We talk a lot about what we think happens when we die and how to accept death, which kind of confused me at the beginning of the class. The more we talked, the more I realized that so many of my classmates were scared of dying, scared of not knowing what was next.

Growing up the way I did, that was never a fear. I grew up very Mexican and very Catholic, so it was drilled into me that when I died I would go to Heaven, and on Día de Muertos, I could come back and visit. Celebrating the holiday always gave me a sense of peace and made me feel connected with a family living in another country.

Traditionally, it's a Mexican holiday, but personally I think that Día de Muertos is so beautiful everyone deserves to celebrate. So, laden with the expertise of my mom and my grandma, here is how you can celebrate Día de Muertos at home, Mexican or not.

First, let's talk about the ofrenda (altar). Día de Muertos is one of those cool things that combines old world spiritualism and new world religion, namely Catholicism. The ofrenda is built in your home, and all the bright colors, candles, marigolds, and food serve to guide your ancestors safely from the land of the dead back home for the night. So, here's what you need to build one.

1. Your ofrenda needs three levels

These levels symbolize the underworld, Earth, and heaven. You could go all out with this, but if you're in a tiny college dorm like me, two different sized boxes atop your desk will do just fine. The ancestors are not picky. Traditionally, purple tablecloths are used to symbolize mourning, but again, if you're on a budget and all you have is bright yellow tablecloths left over from your birthday (thanks, mama), that will do just fine.

2. The bottom level: the graveyard

So normally, the bottom level is on the floor and made to symbolize a graveyard (but normally these ofrendas take up a whole room and I'm working with a total of a tiny desk, so bare with me here). Back home, my mom also avoids putting things directly on the floor because there are always little feet ready to stomp. Instead, my mom makes a cross out of salt on the lowest level, she places tea lights in front of the cross, and we string tissue paper marigolds (the flower of the dead) on the edge of the table. Efficient.

3. The middle level: food!

On my tiny dorm ofrenda, the bottom and middle level are the same desk, but that is okay. The middle level represents Earth, so here is where you'll put all your offerings. In my house, it's where we normally put our family members' favorite foods or drawings my siblings made for them. Always put a glass of water or something to drink because your ancestors will be thirsty by the time they get there. This middle level is also where we put all the sweets like pan de muerto and the decorated sugar skulls. And the food you put doesn't have to be Mexican, just whatever is the favorite of your loved ones.

4. The top level: Heaven

Here's the Catholic bit. My top level always includes a stylized icon of La Virgen de Guadalupe given to me by an aunt. It's perfect because Our Lady is in a little archway (That's also important for reasons I don't really remember, but usually there's an archway of marigolds atop the ofrenda). In addition to the icon, I've got some velas (candles) of Saint Jude and of Our Lady (Mexicans are big fans of Our Lady), and some more flowers.

5. The photos

Ever seen Coco? Last but certainly not least, put a few pictures up of your deceased. That way they know the altar is for them. And you're not limited to just family members. Anybody that was important to you who passed away, feel free to put their pictures up. While I'm waiting for my family pictures to come back from CVS, currently the only photo I have up is of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. (She's right next to Our Lady.)

In Mexico, death isn't seen as something scary. It's a celebration of life and of the afterlife. Honestly, I think the main reason I can't understand my classmates' fear of death is because I've always seen death as a beautiful thing. And a celebration like Día de Muertos proves that death doesn't stop anything; it can't stop love and it can't stop family.

So if you choose to make an ofrenda this year (which you totally should), I hope you have the best time remembering your loved ones and that you know they are always with you.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

High School Soccer is Wildly Important

For Young Players Who Want to Succeed at The Next Level

High School Soccer is Wildly Important

Whose choice is it? The parent? The player? There are a number of reasons that a kid may sit out of high school soccer, and to be completely honest; It is a huge mistake. High school soccer is the final piece in the puzzle that takes a player from above average or elite, to college ready by the end of their senior year. Every year thousands of talented athletes don't play for their high schools. Why though?

Keep Reading... Show less

8 Things That Should Be On Everyone's Holiday To-Do List

December is around the corner, are you ready?

8 Things That Should Be On Everyone's Holiday To-Do List

As they tend to say, its the most wonderful time of the year! People have begun to compile their Christmas to-do lists in anticipation for the season of sugarplums and gingerbread.

The history of the Christmas to-do lists goes back hundreds of years, almost as old as the holiday itself, however, people tend to fall out of this habit as they get older. This is unfortunate, as the theme of Christmas tradition can add bundles of the spirit of joy to your families.

Keep Reading... Show less

Fall Weather Must-Haves

Put away the swim suits and your favorite high-waisted shorts!


The transitional months of fall can cause some fashion headaches as you try to figure out what clothing to keep in your closet. With limited amount of college living space and the ever-unpredictable Nebraska weather, sometimes it’s difficult to know what should be taking up that precious closet space as you transition into winter. As you pack away those tanks and shorts for the chilly months ahead, get your closet ready with a few Fall must-haves. 

Keep Reading... Show less
Content Inspiration

Top 3 Response Articles of This Week

Take a look at the articles driving big conversations on Odyssey.


At Odyssey, we're on a mission to encourage constructive discourse on the Internet. That's why we created the response button you can find at the bottom of every article.

Keep Reading... Show less
Student Life

Holidays With A Small Family

I wouldn't trade what we have for the world.

Matt Johnsn

When I was a kid I always went to my grandparents house whenever we celebrated any sort of holiday. We were a decently sized family and it was always a blessing to be in their house and surrounded by love during the holiday season. However, that all changed when my grandfather passed away and my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. The family then began to drift apart and life went on, and we ended up all celebrating our own holidays with other family members.

Keep Reading... Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments