Day of the Dead: the basics for setting up a Mexican-inspired offering

One of the most significant celebrations for Mexicans is the Day of the Dead. A beautiful tradition that pays tribute to the faithful departed with colorful and beautiful offerings. Although every region and home has different customs, there are some essential elements that every ofrenda should have

Día de Muertos is one of the most deeply rooted and respected Mexican traditions throughout the Mexican Republic. It is a celebration of deep mysticism, which pays tribute to the faithful departed, and through a colorful and meaningful offering, they are invited to visit the homes of those who miss them so much. Offering on the Day of the Dead is the cultural mix where ritual and memory converge. It is to share the food they liked with our deceased and dialogue with their memory.

The Day of the Dead offering, as we know it today, reflects the syncretism of the old and the new world. The Day of the Dead is such an important celebration that it is inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. It takes place on November 1 and 2 and is linked to the Catholic celebrations of All Souls’ Day and All Saints.

In this cultural mix, the Europeans put some flowers, waxes, candles, and candles; the natives added incense with their copal, the food, and the marigold flower. Therefore the offering must have several essential elements, and the most interesting is that each contains its history, tradition, and poetry. They are symbols that dress the offerings in a picturesque way and invite spiritual connection.

The elements that cannot be missing in an offering:

1. Salt and White Tablecloth

The white color represents purity it is usually integrated into elements such as the tablecloth, the flowers, and the confetti. In addition, salt is the main purification element so that the deceased’s body is not corrupted and can transit between this world and that of the dead.

2. Water

In addition to being an element that symbolizes peace, it is a basic element in all the offerings since it quenches the souls’ thirst after their long journey and strengthens their return. It is also an element that, in some cultures, symbolizes the purity of the soul. In many communities of the Mexican Republic, they usually mount beautiful clay jugs and bowls with water throughout the offering, and it is a way of pampering the deceased and helps to purify the environment-

3. Candles

It is worth mentioning that in the past, the ancient Mexicans used ocote (Montezuma pine) branches. One of the most used elements is the candle in its different forms: candles, candles, or waxes. The flame they emit is believed to signify light, faith, and hope. It is also believed to guide the souls to return to their former places. In several indigenous communities, each candle represents a deceased. That is, the number of candles the altar will have will depend on the souls the family wants to receive.

4. Calaveritas

Sweet skulls are one of the most traditional gastronomic traditions, created specifically for celebrating the Day of the Dead (of course, along with the Pan de Muerto). They are placed in the offerings as part of the decoration and represent death according to the tradition of Mesoamerican cultures. They can be made of sugar, amaranth, or chocolate. One of the most characteristic details is that They usually carry a small front sign with the names of the deceased, intending to invite them to visit us. They also often carry the names of people in life as a reminder that the only thing we have insurance against in this life is death.

5. Copal and incense

The first of these elements used is the copal that the natives offered to their gods since the incense was not yet known. This arrived with the Spanish. It is used to cleanse the place of evil spirits so that the soul can enter your home without any danger. Today in various communities throughout the Mexican Republic, they usually integrate copal smoke and incense as part of the offering that releases delicious aromas, creating a more mystical and spiritual environment that complements the prayers.

6. The flowers

An offering would be nothing without flowers. They are the perfect holiday symbol due to their colors and aromatic stelae. They adorn and aromatize the place during the soul’s stay, which will leave happy when it leaves; types of flowers such as the wallflower and the cloud cannot be absent because their color means purity. However, the most representative flower of the Day of the Dead, undoubtedly, is the iconic Cempasúchil Flower, which stands out for its vibrant yellow-orange color. In many places of the country, they usually put petal paths that serve to guide the deceased. It is said that the defoliated marigold flower is the path of color and smell that trace the routes to the souls.

7. Pan de Muerto

Mexico is famous for its delicious sweet bread variants. However, the Pan de Muerto is one of the most special since it is a seasonal bread only enjoyed in October and November. It is another of the most deeply rooted and valued gastronomic traditions. It is one of the most precious elements on the altar and means brotherhood or affection for departed loved ones. The church represents it as the “Body of Christ.”

8. Papel Picado

Another of Mexico’s most wonderful artisan traditions is the elaboration of showy and beautiful minced papers. They are carved by hand, and Chinese papers of all colors are used, with images alluding to the Day of the Dead. They are a unique element that not only adds color and joy to the offering but also represents the air as one of the four elements that must be present in any offer.

9. Food

It is well known that Mexico shines for its exquisite and unique gastronomy. It is a country with an immense culinary heritage. And that is why an important element in the offerings is food. The objective is to delight the dead who visit the offering with their favorite traditional dishes. The most traditional thing is to cook in honor of loved ones that is why it is customary to put your favorite food and drink. Among the most popular elements are mole, tamales, tequila, mezcal, Mexican sweets, fruit, and Pan de Muerto.

10. Portraits

Portraits are a very important element that makes each offering much more personal, which is why in all families, it is customary to integrate portraits of loved ones who are no longer physically with us as part of the offering. They are perfect for paying tribute to your life and invite you to visit the beautiful offerings in your honor.