Tag Archives: Altars

My Day of the Dead Altars 2017

I’ve been creating Day of the Dead altars for many years now.  Every year I add more items to my DOD collection and swap thing up as I work through the set up each year.  It’s a very personal and sentimental process and not something that I want to get “routine” by any means.  Of course, there will be papel picado, monarch butterflies and votive candles.  But other things will change depending on photos I’ve discovered or stories I’ve heard of family members.

This year, I created a nicho retablo for my altar from a photo of my dad and his brothers and sister.  They are all sitting on a couch at my grandmother’s house – all smiles.  I love this photo!  It’s makes me smile and get misty-eyed all at the same time.  These siblings are clearly happy to be together and someone thought enough to capture this moment in black and white and I’m forever grateful for that.  This is my first time to create a retablo and it won’t be my last!  I wrote a blog post last week about how I created my retablo.  I have plenty of DIY arts and craft supplies on hand to make a few more so I can see my altars really taking on a new “look” next year.

The nicho retablo I created for my Day of the Dead/Dia de los Muertos altar this year!

One change I made this year was to create altars in just the dining room.  In past years, I’ve used the coffee table in the living room to honor my mother’s family.  This year I used half of the dining room table for the Stone/Weaver clan.  The other half shows my extended Zuniga family.  Then I incorporated the tea cart into the décor and placed the Odom/Wilson family there.  My husband’s parents wedding photo hangs in the corner where the tea cart is so this seemed like the perfect place for this particular altar.

My buffet has always been the Zuniga family altar for my dad, his parents and siblings.  This year I changed up the photo of my dad.  Usually I have the photo of him in his beloved T-Bird car but this year I found an old photo of him from his early professional days.  It’s larger and makes him seem larger than life even in his younger years.  I’ve tended to lay photos around the tables and altars too but this year I added a few more framed photos.  I think this will be a goal for next year – add more frames and also a few more retablos.

Every year it’s a labor of love to create these altars.  I started earlier this year so I could have them around a little longer.  I tend to want to leave them up for a few weeks after Day of the Dead if over too but they will need to come down this weekend.  When I take the altars down, I also take my time and reflect on everyone no longer with us.

Tonight I flipped the switches on all the votive candles on the altars and took some photographs of the beautiful setting.  Then I raised my Day of the Dead wine glass in a toast to those who are gone from our earthly presence but are clearly not forgotten.

Zuniga-Odom Family Altars

img_2148I started working on my Day of the Dead altars this weekend.  It’s always a special time deciding on the perfect way to display the memories of loved ones who have left us.  Then I head to the basement to pull out my DOD boxes which takes a bit more time these days with all the new items I’ve added to my collection over the years!  But I do love going through the boxes and seeing what will work to enhance the beauty of the altars and memories.

This year, I made just a few tweaks to my altars.  I picked up some very colorful papel picado tin buckets at Target in  the “One Spot” section of the store last year and thought they would be the perfect addition to my altars.  The turquoise, yellow and orange colors go perfectly with the other décor and in particular, the marigolds that I use to adorn all the altars.  I’ve added tea light candles to each bucket and I know the light reflecting through the bucket will be beautiful tomorrow night…

Papel picado tins from Target will hold tealight candles for Day of the Dead

Papel picado tins from Target will hold tealight candles for Day of the Dead. The blue bottle was hand painted by my daughter Emily – the other side sports a sugar skull. The photo on the bottom is of my dad and his niece Christie.

Mariachi hats were another addition this year.  I found to child mariachi hats at the Alabama Thrift store earlier this year.  I couldn’t believe my good fortune.  These hats are not cheap and they are in excellent condition.  I knew I would use them for something and when I started pulling my altars together, they just worked.  In addition, my mother gave me three miniature mariachi hats for my birthday in February, so those were also added.   One day I hope to add a full size mariachi hat to my altar.  I can already envision what it will look like!

One of the mariachi hats I found this year during one of my thirfting adventures.  Made a perfect backdrop for family photos on my DOD altar...

One of the mariachi hats I found this year during one of my thirfting adventures. Made a perfect backdrop for family photos on my DOD altar…

Finally, while I was in At Home a few weeks ago, I spotted a terra-cotta sugar skull as I was about to leave the store.  So many of the DOD items you see these days are a little too mass-produced looking.  I guess that’s why you can find them everywhere.  But this one was different…and so if there was one, there had to be another!  So I set out to search the store for one and I spotted it – out of sight in the Halloween section.  Perfect!  They look great on my dining room table!

Terra cotta sugar skull found at At Home a few weeks ago...

Terra cotta sugar skull found at At Home a few weeks ago…

As for photographs of loved ones who have passed…I remember a scene from the movie “Book of Life” about remembering all your ancestors to keep their memory alive.  As I’ve been getting photos organized this year, I came across several from my mother’s side – the Weavers and the Vansants.  My great-great-grandfather Levi Weaver is pictured in one photo with his young wife Bessie Vansant Weaver along with his grown children and a few of their own.  With the photo of Mary and Rufus Vansant I’m trying to recall the relationship.  I think they were my great-great-grandmother’s parents and I know I have this written down somewhere but I have several boxes of photos and family tree information that I need to go through and sort and identify.  My Aunt Gail gave me this photo many years ago and it has always spoken to me because of their clothing and where they are sitting.  They look like sharecroppers to me but that’s just my impression so I’m not sure.  And I imagine that life wasn’t very easy for them either.  These are additions to my altar this year…

Photos on the Stone and Weaver family altar...these old photos are additions this year of my great-great-grandfather and his family!

Photos on the Stone and Weaver family altar…these old photos are additions this year of my great-great-grandfather and his family!

Tomorrow night, I will light the candles and photograph the glow of the altars.  Then I will sit in my living room and reflect on the lives represented on these altars and give thanks for each and every life.

Viva la vida!

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A Look Back at Birmingham’s Day of the Dead Festival

Candles light one of the altars at Day of the Dead #13

Candles light one of the altars at Day of the Dead #13

Every year I look forward to Birmingham’s Day of the Dead Festival.  This was year 13 for the festival and while it was a rainy day, the rain stopped right before the event was set to start and people made their way downtown.  As I’ve always said, DOD is a photographer’s mecca!  For a week after the event, it’s fun to see all the social media posts and photos of everyone dressed out in sugar skulls.  Photographers J. C. Bravo and Larry O.Gay are always on hand and capture incredible shots of the people .  In my opinion, their photos are breathtaking and really showcase the beauty of Day of the Dead.  Check J.C. and Larry out on Facebook when you get a chance and you’ll see what I mean…

Photo taken by photographer Larry O. Gay with my camera. Thanks Larry!

Photo taken by photographer Larry O. Gay with my camera. Thanks Larry!

At one point early in the evening, Larry grabbed my camera and took a photo of me with my husband, and my friend Theresa Deleon and her daughter.  So I now have an “original” Larry Gay photo on my very own camera!  Thanks Larry!

Meanwhile, instead of talking about the event, I’ll just let my own photos tell the story…

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The Zuniga-Odom Family Altar for Dia de los Muertos – 2015

Zuniga-Odom altar 2015

Zuniga-Odom altar 2015

My altars this year were very similar to last year. As I mentioned in a previous post, I wanted to change things up a bit but I didn’t plan very well. So, I’ll hold those ideas until next year…

Meanwhile, I did add more to my dining room table altar! I always use a pair of two-tiered plate stands for different events and gatherings at my house. Since I bought the cute male and female sugar skulls at Target, I used those on the top place and scattered marigolds on the bottom plate. It really made the table explode in color!

Something new on my altar/table this year is the two tiered stand - a great place to put my new Sugar Skull in top hat decoration (from Target) - just add marigolds!

Something new on my altar/table this year is the two tiered stand – a great place to put my new Sugar Skull in top hat decoration (from Target) – just add marigolds!

I have to admit, it’s hard to take everything down. I’ll be doing that this weekend but the candles – the battery operated flicker kind – make the dining room and living room so beautiful at night.

Until next year…Feliz Día de los Muertos!

One of my favorite photos with my dad...

One of my favorite photos with my dad…

The Zuniga siblings  my grandfather (far right) Apolonio Guerrero (Polo)and his siblings.

The Zuniga siblings my grandfather (far right) Apolonio Guerrero (Polo)and his siblings.

My dad, Praxedis Sotelo Zuniga, in his T-bird.  Photo taken in Bangkok, Thailand.  His handkerchief, rosary and Air Force pin.

My dad, Praxedis Sotelo Zuniga, in his T-bird. Photo taken in Bangkok, Thailand. His handkerchief, rosary and Air Force pin.

My dad's Leica camera...next to a tequila shot set I bough in Mexico many years ago.

My dad’s Leica camera…next to a tequila shot set I bough in Mexico many years ago.

Zuniga family crest on a cloth bag - these were given out at a recent Zuniga family reunion.

Zuniga family crest on a cloth bag – these were given out at a recent Zuniga family reunion.

My coffee table altar with pictures of my mother's family - her parents, sister, grandparents...  My pup, Lucy helped by watching.

My coffee table altar with pictures of my mother’s family – her parents, sister, grandparents… My pup, Lucy helped by watching.

A favorite photo of my grandparents and aunt - Onnie and Louise Stone and Gail Stone Thomas.

A favorite photo of my grandparents and aunt – Onnie and Louise Stone and Gail Stone Thomas.

Zuniga family photos - my dad, his siblings and parents (front photo) and my grandparents Zuniga on their wedding day (photo on left).

Zuniga family photos – my dad, his siblings and parents (front photo) and my grandparents Zuniga on their wedding day (photo on left).

Zuniga-Odom altar at night

Zuniga-Odom altar at night

Day of the Dead 2015

Day of the Dead 2015

Day of the Dead 2015

Day of the Dead 2015

Day of the Dead 2015

Day of the Dead 2015

Preparing for Day of the Dead – 2015

Some of the items on my Day of the Dead living room altar include a Day of the Dead book, carnations, butterflies and photos...

Some of the items on my Day of the Dead living room altar include a Day of the Dead book, carnations, butterflies and photos…

Day of the Dead is tomorrow and I just finished up my altars at home this afternoon.  I feel like the celebration snuck up on me this year with all the traveling I’ve been doing lately.  Last year I decided I would use real marigolds on my altars in the dining room rather than the silk ones from the craft store.  Well, that didn’t happen…  I also wanted to go through all my photos and bring some new ones out of some of my family that’s gone.  Again, that didn’t happen…I am in the process of moving my ginormous stash of photos and slides to my daughter’s old room so things are a little disorganized at the moment.

A copy of a photo of the some of the Wilson children...front and center is my mother-in-law, Johnnie.  Behind her are her brothers Jim and Bob and to her right is her sister Joyce.  Uncle Jim was the last remaining Wilson sibling and he passed away this October.

A copy of a photo of the some of the Wilson children…front and center is my mother-in-law, Johnnie. Behind her are her brothers Jim and Bob and to her right is her sister Joyce. Uncle Jim was the last remaining Wilson sibling and he passed away this October.

All this feeling of disorganization went away last night as I added the last photos to my altars and a few new touches.  Funny how things just come together when you need them to and this evening I am so pleased with the result.  I just want these altars to be a special tribute to the family that is now gone, especially the recent losses we have experienced.  Earlier this year we lost my cousin Chila – Orcilia Zuniga Forbes quite suddenly.  Just a few weeks ago, we lost my husband’s Uncle, James Edward Wilson who was 93.  So sad to be adding more people but at the same time, it’s good to remember them, their accomplishments and the love we had and continue to have for them.

My cousin, Chila - Orcilia Zuniga Forbes - who passed away suddenly a few months ago.  I love this photo of her that is on the Meyers Trust website in tribute to her service on this foundation.

My cousin, Chila – Orcilia Zuniga Forbes – who passed away suddenly a few months ago. I love this photo of her that is on the Meyers Trust website in tribute to her service on this foundation.

I set tea-light candles out on the altars this afternoon and took photos of everything.  Tomorrow, I will light the candles and spend some time with my altars remembering the good times and wonderful lives of our family members who are no longer with us physically.

This photo of Uncle Jim kept getting reposted on Facebook shortly after his death.  I love this picture...a gentle and good man in the presence of animals.

This photo of Uncle Jim kept getting reposted on Facebook shortly after his death. I love this picture…a gentle and good man in the presence of animals.

Día de los Muertos…Birmingham style!

IMG_7508Sunday was Día de los Muertos – Day of the Dead – and Birmingham celebrated in a big way!  Barehandsinc.org has been preparing for this 12th celebration all year-long and I do believe this was probably their best year ever!

Eddie and I arrived a little before 4 p.m. (when the gates opened) and normally we pay our $10 and get right in.  Not this year…we waited almost 20 minutes to get in this year!  Not a bad thing for the event, mind you!

Once we got in, the courtyard – which is generally rather empty – was already quite crowded.  I started at one end of the big brick wall and began making my way down the wall taking pictures and just taking it all in.  There were many more public altars this year.  And there was a huge tribute to Mexican Artists.  It would have taken me all night to read all those names…it was simply beautiful.

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I remarked to Eddie how there were hardly any people there that we knew.  Again, not a bad thing…it was great seeing lots of new faces.  it’s a wonderful thing for a festival!  We eventually ran into quite a few friends.  Eddie captured it with a photo of the group – then a man walked right in front of us, oblivious to us all standing there posing for the camera – and Eddie captured the aftermath…all of us laughing hysterically!  Love that photo and all those friends!

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Got to see my sweet friend, Cristina Almanza at DOD this year!

I didn’t get to see festival founders Wendy Jarvis nor Tracy Martin this year…but I know they were beaming at the turnout and at the success of this year’s event.  So many people remembered and celebrated.  And that’s what the event is all about.

I’ve seen so many photos of the event on Facebook this past week.  Here are a few of mine to add to the mix…

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My friend Miguel with his sweet daughter Gabriella…she was mesmerized by the mariachi playing at the altars.

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My Altars…

Day of the Dead is over…but I’m not sure when I’ll take down my home altars.

IMG_7447I 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…

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Dad in his T-Bird…

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Dad (center) with his brothers Felix and Lorenzo – front row – his sister Gloria, and parents Apolonio (Tata Polo) and Norberta (Nana Beta).

 

IMG_7443On 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!

 

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IMG_7441On 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!

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