Saturday, November 5, 2016

Dia de los Muertos, Part 3

One of the most important parts of Dia de los Muertos is making ofrendas, or altars, to honor the memory of your loved ones. Altars contain photos, food and other remembrances of the people who've died, but they also have some common elements, like marigolds, special bread called pan de muerto, calaveras and catrinas, and certain foods. If you have enough space, you're supposed to create an arch over the altar out of sugar cane or flowers.

I especially like this one because the arch says "Long live our traditions."

The altars are supposed to have three levels, and there's often flowers on the floor next to the altar as well, although sometimes the floor is part of the three levels. (The rules aren't strictly enforced, apparently.) I particularly liked this altar because of the calaveras (skeletons) and the way the squash and the bread and everything are so artfully placed.

It seems like every building in Oaxaca has an altar, and every altar has dozens or sometimes hundreds of marigolds on it. As a result, there are people on every corner and in every market selling huge piles of them.

We bought three bunches and two pots of marigolds, plus some purple and red flowers.

A lot of altars have designs made out of flowers on the floor in front of them, usually, but not always, crosses.

This altar is at the San Pablo Cultural Center, hence the initials.

Sometimes people make these sand paintings in front of their altars, or nearby them.

Indigo helped make this sand painting.

The stuff that goes on the altars varies with each one, but marigolds and pan de muerto is pretty much on all of them. The bread on this altar is particularly beautifully decorated.

Jicama, corn, platanos, peanuts and guavas are all pretty common.  There are also beverages, mostly mescal (not surprisingly).

I love the big bowls of food on this altar. Grandma's favorite dishes, I suppose.

Remember those weird little painted pieces of pasta that I showed you in the post about the mercado? Well, we found out what they're for. They are used to decorate pan de muerto. Pan de muerto is the decorated version of pan de yema (a type of bread with eggs and sugar in it).  The decorations are often just the little pasta thingies, which are called caritas (little faces), but also sometimes other stuff like seeds and something that looks like icing, in white or in bright colors.

We made an altar in our house, with photos of our grandparents, cats, and others who've died. The path of marigold petals from the front door to the altar is supposed to help the souls of the deceased find their way into the house.

Because we are Unitarian Universalists, not Catholics, we made a chalice instead of a cross on our floor.

Here's a close up of our altar.  The box in between the catrina and the skull is tuna fish, for the cats.

1 comment:

  1. I love our altar so much. I wonder if it is okay to make one every year. Here in Mexico it seems to be expected and approved. Back home, will it be cultural appropriation? We need some way to mourn and remember those we love, and the few people who are buried are buried too far away for us to clean up the graves and place a stone, Jewish style.