An ofrenda is a homemade altar filled with a collection of offerings to welcome the soul of a dead family member to visit on Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations.
Traditionally, ofrendas are built at home, in cemeteries, and churches. Today they may be built in public environments.
Building an Ofrenda
To welcome a family member’s soul to visit on the Day of the Dead, families put things that the person liked on the altar.
The top of the altar may include a photograph of the family member and statuettes of saints or the Virgin of Guadalupe.
The dead family member’s favorite foods fill the second tier. These might include the rich Mexican sauce mole, pan dulce (sweet breads), or pan de muerto (bread of the dead), a sugar-coated bun that tastes like a sugar donut without the hole.
If the family member was a child, a favorite toy might be added. A bottle or a shot of tequila or mezcal might be put out for a grown up.
The bottom of the altar usually contains lit candles. Some families put a washbasin with a mirror and soap so the visiting soul can clean up when they visit.
Orange marigolds, sugar skulls, and Day of the Dead figurines are placed on the altar. Marigolds are the Aztec flower of the dead.
Flowers and traditional Mexican paper cutouts fill out the scene.
Building an ofrenda is fun and is something the family can do together.