Dia De Los Muertos comes alive with ofrendas


Did you know 91% of people in Mexico celebrate Dia de Los Muertos — often by putting ofrendas up for their loved ones?  The percentage here in Cicero is probably not that high, but ofrendas still pop up in our community at this time.

According to Culture and Traditions by insidemexico.com, ofrendas are an essential part of Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Death). Historically, Dia de los Muertos originated in ancient Mesoamerica, where indigenous groups, like Aztec, Maya and Toltec, had specific times when they celebrated their loved ones who passed away. November 1 is a day to remember and celebrate all children who passed away and November 2 is set aside to honor adults.  This celebration is most common in Mexico but recently has become popular in the United States.

These altars are set up to honor and remember everyone who is on a new journey up in heaven. Like most people say, its a celebration of life, not death. Families place pictures of any special person that passed away, sometimes with items that belonged to them or their favorite foods:  often tamales, pan de muerto and hot chocolate.

Interestingly, every ofrenda includes the four and most important elements: wind, water, earth and fire. Water is left in a pitcher so the spirits can quench their thirst. Papel picado represents the wind. Earth is represented by food, especially bread. Candles are often left in the form of a cross to represent the cardinal directions, so the spirits can find their way. Flowers are also used and represent the fugacity of life.

Lastly, will you be setting up your ofrenda this year? And, what would your altar look like after you’ve passed?  What items would represent you?