How to Make a Day of the Dead Altar (Día De Muertos)

by Julene Allende


  • Tablecloth
  • Boxes, a sofa or anything you can use as a base
  • Marygold flowers (cempasuchil)
  • Religious items important to you
  • Candles
  • Incense (preferably copal)
  • Photos of your dead loved one
  • Items your loved one liked (food drink hobbies)
  • Papel picado (paper cut in decorative ways)
  • Sugar skulls (can be chocolate too)
  • Tangerines
  • Traditional sweets
  • Salt
  • Water
  • Bread of the dead
  • Instructions

    Step 1

    The altars are a way to celebrate death and invite our deceased loved ones to spend an evening with us back on this realm.

    Step 2

    We lure them with the drink and food they loved, the scent of flowers and incense.

    Step 3

    Start with the base. Three layers are great, but you can also make 7!

    Step 4

    Start adding the elements to your altar.

    Step 5

    Step 6

    Step 7

    Fruit and bread are important elements of the altar.

    Step 8

    Salt and...

    Step 9

    ...water symbolize the purification of the spirit.

    Step 10

    Skulls represent death.

    Step 11

    Add drinks and foods your loved ones enjoy in life.

    Step 12

    Add all the elements your deceased most enjoyed.

    Step 13

    Traditional sweets and candy are essential!

    Step 14

    Pan de Muertos, or bread of the dead, is one of the main elements of the altar.

    Step 15

    Usually altars are done to one person in particular, but you can include several loved ones too :)

    Step 16

    Copal purifies and attracts the dead with its scent.

    Step 17

    Flowers also attract the dead with their scent.

    Step 18

    There are MANY important elements I'm missing here, if you want to do a really traditional altar, but these will do! Your altar will be beautiful and significant!

    Step 19