Dia de los Muertos / Day of the Dead



During the festival, families build an ofrenda in the home. The placement, size, and materials used to construct the altar for the dead vary throughout Mexico. In general, an altar is covered with a cloth, although other coverings might be used depending on the region. Pictures of the deceased, and sacred images such as pictures of Mary, Jesus, or other saints (e.g., the Virgin de Guadalupe) are placed on the altar. Food for the ofrenda might include a labor-intensive dish of chicken mole—a spicy sauce of some 50 ingredients including chili peppers, peanuts, and chocolate—or other dishes that were favorites of the deceased. Items familiar to deceased loved ones, such as a package of a particular brand of cigarettes or a bottle of mescal, are set out to entice their spirits to return to the family during the fiesta.

When the ofrenda is complete, on the appropriate day determined by tradition, the dead are called home to be with the living. In some places, families set off rockets or large firecrackers to announce to the dead that it is time to come. In some communities, the dead will join the living in a meal, although only the dead may eat from the ofrenda. Children are warned that the sweets, bread, and delicious offerings are first given to the dead. The living will eventually eat them but only after much of their essence and flavor has been consumed by the dead.


Despelder, L. A., DeSpelder, & Strickland. (2009). Day of the dead. In C. D. Bryant, & D. L. Peck (Eds.), Encyclopedia of death and the human experience. Sage Publications. Credo Reference: https://ezproxy.ollusa.edu/login?url=https://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/sagedhe/day_of_the_dead/0?institutionId=3517

Understanding Ofrendas | Day of the Dead