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The Bend Magazine

How to Create Your Own Altar for Day of the Dead

By: Vianney Rodriguez, Sweet Life Bake  Photo: Jason Page  Styling: Terrie Moore, Wildflowers 

Creating an altar at home for day of the dead is a very personal and loving memorial to both honor and remember those who you love and have passed.

I often get asked how to create one at home, and I always tell the person your altar is a reflection of your loved one, your memories, and can be as big or small are you are comfortable with. My tia’s altar takes up two rooms but my mami’s altar was always small in her entryway. I personally like to have a few altars in the house – one for my loved ones, one for the musicians who shaped my life, and one small one in the kitchen where I honor the cocineros who have shared  their love of comida with me over the years. Today, I want to share with you three different altars.

The first alter was created by @wildflowers in an existing shelf/bookcase in her dining room. I thought this was a wonderful idea as she can honor her loved ones with an existing element in her décor.

The second is my personal altar – which I created on my bar this year. I’m currently living in a smaller space, so clearing out my bar for my altar made sense and honors my abuelita for her giving me the gift of cocktailing.

The third is a smaller altar honoring my love of music. This was created in a space where I hold my record player, which makes me so happy. I placed Selena, George Michael, and Pedro Infante – the music of my life.
Altars are also meant to welcome returning spirits.

The altar will guide their journey home from the land of the dead to our homes. Here’s a breakdown of some of the elements to create an altar at home:

• Photographs of your loved ones 
• Water or their favorite liquor - to refresh a spirit after their journey.
• Pan de muerto - is topped with skull and crossbones.
• Salt - a symbol of purification. This is for the dead to season the food you’ve offered him.
• Comida – your loved one’s favorite food or treats – they sell mini barro foods that I like to place on mine, if you do not want to place fresh food on the altar.
• Tools of the trade – honor your loved one by setting out the tools of their trade – my abuelita had a farm and was a migrant worker, so I place a small basket filled with clay fruit and a pair of scissors. 

Create your own alter for the season to honor and remember those who have since passed. Use these tips and share your creations with us by tagging Sweet Life Bake (@sweetlifebake) and The Bend Magazine (@thebendmag)!