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