Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Create your own Mantle/ Altar Part 2

So yesterday I showed you how I created my own mantle from scratch... today I am going to help you make your own Dia de los Muertos altar!

The Day of the Dead is a Mexican Tradition that happens every November 1st and 2nd. It is said to symbolize the passing of loved ones, and the rebirth of their spirit in the afterlife. The holiday traditionally is celebrated by families getting together to eat, and create altar's to memorialize the lives of the deceased. The intent is to encourage visits by the souls, to reconnect with their earthly families by being present for food, festivities, music and often storytelling.

I like to create an altar every year as part of the Halloween spirit, although the two occasions are completely unrelated to serious Dia de los Muertos participants.

For my annual altar, I usually use my mantle since it is a focal point in my home, although since I have been collecting for years I have enough knick knacks to make several!

Here are some images from last year:

(I used gauze cloth to decorate the existing window treatments in my dining room)

(I got this catholic lamp at a thrift store for a few dollars, and use it year round, but this time of year it fits nicely on the mantle)

Bella, enjoying the candlelight

If you don't happen to have a fireplace in your home, you can still make an altar using a sofa table or bookshelf to serve as a mantle, or basically any spot in your home that it out of the way and/or can be cleared off for display would work. It would even look cool from the outside in if you set up a display on a small table in front of a window for the trick-or-treater's.

Anyhow, once you have the area, it's easy from there on. Start by building with a few items you probably already have
; if you have kid's get them involved by leading a scavenger hunt around your home to collect some items.

Here are some suggestions to use:

* Old photographs of deceased family members or pets, or buy vintage snapshots from antique shops. I shop at the Newport Avenue Antique Center in Ocean Beach, since they have an enormous selection at various prices, most under $5.00 each

* Candles (make sure they aren't going to trigger your own death day! Keep them contained!) I purchase my Sacred Heart candles at 99 cent stores, but Pier 1 has an amazing selection as well if you're willing to spend more.

* Skeleton sculptures, or Mexican styled figurines. Catrina dolls can be found online, or if you're up for a quick trip across the border, many street vendors in T.J. have all kinds, and are the real deal. You may also include rosaries or religious figurines.

(This is me when I was a Catrina Doll for Halloween a few years back)

* Floral such as marigolds, mums, baby's breath, lilies or roses. Can be displayed with feathers or leaves.

*Miniature bottles of alcohol (BevMo has a whole rack of tiny goodness)

* Fruit (the self contained kind like oranges or apples)

* Sugar Skulls or candy

*Tarot cards, post card's or hand written notes

*You can also make your altar into an interactive experience by having small slips of paper nearby where your friends can write down the name of their favorite deceased celebrity to add to it. Or, have a party and invite guests to bring an image of their favorite ghost.

* If you are doing an altar for a specific person and/or people you can customize the altar with items that person in particular liked. For example, if he/she was a photographer, use old camera's or spools of film. Or for a Pisces who liked water, make it beach themed as use shells or coral.

Have fun with it, and don't spend a lot of money! Just look around your home and outdoor environment and I'm sure you already have much to use. The finished result should be eclectic and colorful, and kept up until at least the 3rd of November.

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