Day of the Dead is over…but I’m not sure when I’ll take down my home altars.
I started putting my altar together on my dining room buffet but realized quickly that I would run out of room. So I expanded to my dining room table and finally to my living room coffee table…creating three separate but cohesive spaces. My Zúñiga family was heavily featured on the buffet…my dad along with his pilot record books, his rosary and a handkerchief he once gave me to use when I was 9 years old and had the sniffles going to Catholic school one morning – along with a photo of him in his beloved T-Bird car that he had while in Cambodia. The photo of dad with his siblings and parents is so special – they are all gone now, along with their spouses. My mother is the only living spouse…
On the other side of the buffet – my in-laws, the Odoms – Johnnie and Glen. I placed a copy of one of Johnnie’s cookie recipes next to her photo. I found the recipe on her refrigerator – in her own handwriting – after she passed in 2011. Next to my in-laws, my sweet sister-in-law, Rhonda, who passed unexpectedly this summer. One of my favorite photos of her too – arms outstretched and welcoming everyone to Thanksgiving dinner at her house on Smith Lake. An added feature – a Christmas sweater – because Rhonda loved to wear her seasonal sweaters!
On the dining room table, pictures of the Odom and Zúñiga families scattered about…beautiful photos of mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, sisters and bothers, sons and daughters…
And finally, the coffee table with photos of the Stone family – my mother’s parents – my grandparents, my sweet Aunt Gail, my uncle and my great-uncle, great-aunt and cousin. I remember the times when we would come to Alabama during the summer for vacations and they were all here. I miss them all dearly.
Artificial marigolds were scattered on all three altars…next year I want to use real ones. Those were the finishing touches I used on Saturday night. This was after going to see the animated movie , Book of Life, with my girls. I cried at the movie ending and yes, I cried as I placed the candles and marigolds around each altar. As cold as it was outside Sunday night, the house felt warm with the memories of our ancestors and the lives they led. Viva la Vida!
Do people with home altars normally take them down when Dia de Los Muertos is over, or is it common to leave them up all year? I’d also be interested in knowing how to properly set up/make a home altar. It seems a bit intimidating for those of us who didn’t grow up with home altars. I’d like to make one for my great-grandmother who passed away a month ago–that would feel more genuine than leaving her photos and jewelry in a drawer (like I’m currently doing).
They aren’t kept up all year…typically they are taken down shortly after DOD. Work begins on the altars around mid-October for most people making home altars. During the year though, I keep a collection of my dad’s things displayed on a shelf in my family room bookcase. Not really an altar…but I like having some his things – his Leica camera, his rosary and his handkerchief nearby throughout the year. Just remember, there is no wrong way to do this…it’s really about how you wish to honor and remember your loved one. If you want a more traditional look, just google DOD altars and there are some beautiful pictures out there! I will be posting some more from our local event this past weekend too. I loved seeing how creative people get with their altars – using cigar boxes or even a suitcase in one instance! Hope this helps! I know whatever you decide to do, your great-grandmother will be honored because you will do it with such great love…
Absolutely beautiful altars.
Thank you so much! I am loving the way they turned out this year…I keep going into my dining room and just breathing in…