By: Robert Rios, News Editor
My family loves to celebrate the holidays. Every year we decorate my home and yard to the proper time of celebration. For Christmas we put up lights all around the house and put different corny inflatables everywhere. For Easter we like to put colorful eggs in the yard so the Easter bunny can be happy to see them.
One of my family’s newer traditions is setting up a Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) altar to honor my past family members. We have been celebrating since about 2011 because my mother was inspired from the random trips we took every November to the La Placita Olvera (Olvera Street) when they would begin to set up for their big Day of the Dead celebrations. My grandma loves it when the people in our neighborhood walk by and stop to see our altar outside our home.
The two-day holiday that takes place from Nov. 1-2 involves family and friends gathering to pray and remember loved ones who have died. In Mexican culture, death is viewed as a good thing because their lost ones will eventually return to celebrate with them on this holiday.
My altar is set up outside in our yard on an old bookshelf so we can put a lot of pictures and fit everyone in. It has a picture of everyone in my family that has passed, draped with white lace, and bright marigolds. Like most altars, ours of course features the infamous calaveras (sugar skulls). Many altars will also have a lit candle to guide their passed family members so they don’t get lost.
Almost all altars have similar elements like the flowers and the skulls, but what makes them different is the items placed around the loved ones. It is a custom to place one or two favorite items around a person’s picture like their favorite food or a personal belonging; anything that best represents that person when they were living.
Like next to my great grandmother’s photo, we have her old tortilla smasher that is made out of stone to show her love for cooking. One of my uncles was in the service as a weekend warrior and lived in Germany for a little while so next to his picture is a small United States flag to represent his patriotism for his country. One of my relatives had an obsession of Jack in the Box tacos so we put those tacos out in a ziplock bag (because ants may come) so they may enjoy them for the holiday.
Our display is not just for my family members, but it also has photos of close friends and distant relatives. We also have a picture of four-legged family member named Snuffles, a small little dachshund with a loud bark who still guards the house every night.
I like to do this because it gives me a sense of pride in mi familia. Día de Muertos allows us to cherish their journey to a better life, together. With some of those people on our altar, I would not be the person I am today.