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blog post inspired by PORCH
This legendary holiday is celebrated in many ways, depending on the region. Many people decorate graves with marigolds, candles, and some of the favorite food of their deceased relatives. Others enjoy celebrating with food, alcohol, and skull masks or sugar skulls called calacas.
Altars or ofrendas are often built inside peoples’ homes and adorned with flowers, food, candles, and photos of their loved ones. It’s estimated that approximately 28-percent of the American population celebrates Día de los Muertos, with the percentages much higher in Mexico.
As there is a variety of Mexican traditions you can practice at this special day, we'd like to introduce you some of them you can easily do at home:
Build an altar: You can build your own ofrenda or altar on a table or a cabinet with multiple shelves. Be sure to incorporate all of the elements, including the water, fire, earth, and wind elements. A pitcher of water, your loved one’s favorite food, framed pictures, and several candles are appropriate to add. You may also place some of their most treasured belongings on the altar. Be sure to adorn the ofrenda with a colorful paper banner, too.
DIY papel picado: Make your own banner or papel picado with colorful tissue or lightweight table covers. Vibrant colors of blue, yellow, pink, green, and red are best. Trace several different sugar skull designs on the paper, then cut them out using scissors or a sharp knife. Be sure to cut out holes for the eyes, nose, and mouth and cut out a few shapes around the skull to give it a decorative touch. You may also use rectangles and cut out flowers and other shapes. String each piece of tissue paper together using a lightweight rope or some string, then drape your papel picado across the altar. You can also display the banners above a doorway or hang them on a wall.
Catrina/sugar skull face painting and costume-wearing: You may paint your face to represent La Catrina using red, white, and black. The red represents the love for departed friends and family members. Black and white resemble mortality and the spirits of those who passed. Your face should have a white base, with black painted around the eyes and mouth. Red floral designs are then painted around the forehead, cheeks, and chin. You may also add more vibrant colors if you desire. A long, floral dress or gown is often worn by women, as well as elaborate floral headdresses or hair jewelry. Men typically wear black suits and a large black hat adorned with marigolds, roses, and other flowers.
Dress the Catrina/Make a Catrina paper doll: If you have a skeleton figurine, dress it in the style of Catrina using small flowers and bright colors. You can also make a DIY Catrina paper doll using a small paper tube as the body and a lollipop for the head. Cover the doll with colorful tissue, paying close attention to her gown and face. Draw her face on paper, color it with markers, then attach it using craft glue. Take strips of colorful tissue and wrap them around her to design a beautiful Día de los Muertos gown.
Gather with the family to eat: Día de los Muertos is a celebration centered around food, music, and dancing. Spend time together as a family eating traditional food and candy and sip on a cup of delicious Mexican hot chocolate. Bake some pan de muerto or “Bread of the Dead.” This traditional Mexican bread is easy to make, and it can be shaped into animal, flower, or skull designs if you choose. Other traditional dishes include candied pumpkin (calabaza en tacha), corn tamales, pozole, and mole.
Write literary Calaveras: Literary Calaveras are lighthearted epitaphs that are written to honor the dead. You can also write some to honor a few people you love that are still alive. When writing your Calavera, think of things about the person that are humorous or specific things about them that makes them unique. The lines don’t have to rhyme, but they are often written as a multi-lined poem with rhyming verses. Once you write it, decorate the borders with colorful sugar skulls, flowers, or other Day of the Dead designs. Use colorful markers or colored pencils on a large sheet of white construction paper to make it. You can hang the literary Calaveras on your altar or give them to a loved one as a gift.
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