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.
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.