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.
Tea cart in my dining room with the Odom/Wilson family
Dining room table altar with extended Zuniga Family
Other half of my dining room table with Stone/Weaver family
My sister-in-law with my mother-in-law…I love this photo of them!
The centerpiece of the dining room is this Day of the Dead activity book – a gift from a friend…along with two sugar skull dolls I found at Target this year. They are so adorable. In the foreground…a punched tin Mexican lantern. I found 3 at the thrift store just a few days before Dia de los Muertos…a sign, perhaps?!
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.
Buffer altar of my Zuniga Family
My father, Praxedis Sotelo Zuniga – an early professional photo of him replaces the photo of dad in his beloved T-bird car this year.
Center of the buffer altar with my cousins Chila and Lala featured.
The original Zunigas…a photo of my dad, his siblings and his parents.
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.
Votives candles are lit for my family altars…
Sun setting on my dining room altar – this is a photo of my great-great-grandfather Weaver and his family from Wilsonville, AL
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.
This afternoon I stopped by Sojourns Fair Trade Store in downtown Birmingham. This place is such a treasure! I mean, I seriously never leave this store without dropping a chunk of change but I just can’t resist all the beautiful things! From jewelry and clothing to lovely pieces of art from all over the world…if you are looking for unique gifts, this is the place!
When I arrived, Melissa Kendrick, my friend and owner, was busy getting new clothing merchandise ready to display for sale. She greeted me with a big hug and began telling me about the clothing and a pop-up shop she is preparing to open in Montgomery. I still remember the first time I met Melissa. It was at her first location just down the street from her current location – 2017 Third Avenue North. I went in at the recommendation of two friends who worked nearby and immediately fell in love with the place! I remember having the nicest conversation with Melissa and thinking how wonderful to have a store like this in Birmingham!
Sojourns was the first wholly fair trade store in Alabama. They offer unique items produced under fair trade standards from 57 countries. For more about what fair trade is, visit the Fair Trade Federation website. A sign in the store shares that fair trade wages are designed to provide fair compensation based on the true cost of production and are not based on any developed world wage standards. Fair wages are determined by a number of factors including the amount of time, skill and effort involved in production, living wages where products are made, the purchasing power in a community or area and other costs of living in the local context.
Over the years I’ve purchased quite a number of items for my home and as gifts. A few years ago, I took my daughters with me and I was oohing and aahing over a wooden salad bowl set and they surprised me with it for Christmas! I was recently in the store with my mother and bought quite a few Day of the Dead items to add to my growing collection. I have a collection nativity retablos too. Today I was looking for a few more nativities and there were quite a few from all over the world. It was hard to decide!
One of the Day of the Dead items I bought recently at Sojourns.
Melissa told me today that she wants to maintain a Day of the Dead section in her store as well as a Christmas section too. She is expecting quite a few large shipments just in time for Christmas. If you are looking for something different and something that you can feel good about purchasing, stop by Sojourns and take a look around. I guarantee that you won’t leave the store without an item or two! Here are a few photos of the store from my recent visits in a slide show. Seriously…go visit Melissa at Sojourns soon!