Dia de los Muertos Altar Inspiration
The Day of the Dead celebration for the Meso -American indigenous people was a time to celebrate the harvest, and their ancestors. It was a private family event. Families set up a family altar with those things that were important to their ancestors, such as food, toys, pictures of their love ones, local seasonal flowers like :
cempasuchitl flowers which grew wild and were ready to cut at this time of year, to show the souls their way home.
Copal incense to take their gratitude and prayers up to the gods in its smoke.
salt, and water, for the weary souls of the ancestors, and some kind of torch, of the sacred fire. They buried their relatives where they lived, there were no cemeteries.
In the 17 century, Spanish fryers fused this harvest and ancestors remembrance day with the Catholic celebration of “All Saints Day” of November 1st. and added the All Soul’s Day on Nov. 2nd.
The same way it was done before with many of the non-Catholic peoples in Europe such as the Celts.
In Spain, they started making cookies and candies in the shape of bones of saints. And they still have a large repertoire of confections they eat only during these two days celebration. In Italy they are known as “Ossi dea Morti”. [recipe]
Well, visiting cemeteries is a new thing, the Catholic Church banned the burial of people in their residencial backyards, because it was a health hazard, and they added a “tax” for burial services. Rich people were buried inside the church, and the others in the atrium, the big open space outside the church. So, when people had to place their offerings on the graves of their love ones in the cemetery, it became a public celebration of people even strangers sharing stories; some would bring a guitar to serenade their love one.
Talking to others about the lives of your ancestors, their struggles, their adventures, their lives, seems to bring them back to life, as if they are sharing in the conversation.