Día de los Muertos | Day of the Dead


Today is el Día de los Muertos; well, actually, it’s the second (and last) day of the two-day celebration of life, death, and family.  If you want to know more about the Day of the Dead, there are many excellent resources online.  This entry is going to focus on my altar.

The Day of the Dead is celebrated in several different ways, which can vary according to where your family is from in Mexico and/or where you’ve ended up in the world.  In America, I was lucky to live in an area where it was easy to take part in Mexican and Chican@ community.  There would be altars at the church and the cemetaries would be packed with calaveras (sugar skulls).  Two main elements of the Day of the Dead are decorating the gravesite and building an altar.  Usually I only decorate the gravesite, but in Korea this is not an option, so I’ve built an altar.

dia02 dia03

Because I couldn’t find marigolds, I made them.  Oranges and candles are elements of an altar.  So are pictures and colorful paper.  Normally I would buy the paper from a Mexican market, but there are none in Jeonju so I bought some traditional hanji from the local CNA and cut it all myself.  Usually altars (and graves) are decorated with things that the deceased enjoyed, as well as foods that they enjoyed, something to drink, and sugar skulls.  I included the plants (lilacs; my favorite) but didn’t have any sugar skulls.  I will leave some food and some wine out tonight.

dia04Top, from left to right: Uncle Mike, Uncle Gabe, Grampa.  Bottom: my cousin Danae, Uncle Joe, Grampa (again), and Grampa holding my uncle Jesse (both now passed on).

This Day of the Dead was especially bittersweet because my uncle Joe passed on last weekend.  Today (and every other day) I will remember him and the other loved ones that I’ve lost to time, illness, or accident.

If you’re curious to see how I would usually decorate a grave, this is what I did at Danae’s grave last year:




8 thoughts on “Día de los Muertos | Day of the Dead

  1. Emily

    I think this was a wonderful beautiful project that u did this weekend, especially during this hard time with the recent loss of a loved one. I am really inspired by this and think it is a wonderful way to reflect. I am so impressed that u made the marigolds out of paper. I love papel picado and learned how to do the traditional paper cutting but I would love for you to show me how to make a marigold sometime.

    1. dayisnight Post author

      When did you learn papel picado? I haven’t done it since I was a child! We should get together sometime and try. The hanji that I used was thicker and heavier and more cloth-like than I would have liked, but I think it’kk probably hold up better.

  2. Margie

    Beautiful, I immediately spotted your grandpa, my dad, your uncle jesse and Danae. Thank you for the love and for sharing this. ❤

    1. dayisnight Post author

      Thanks! I go to her grave every year and do something for the Day of the Dead. JJ’s usually already beat me to it with the decorations, but last year I was too quick for her!


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