Our family does not have Mexican roots, but we are Catholic and our family has been for many, many generations. All Saints Day (Nov 1) and All Souls Day (Nov 2) are a big deal in the Catholic faith. These days give us a chance to remember and honor our loved ones who are deceased, and I just love the Mexican traditions during the Day of the Dead of filling these days with music, dance, parades, food, prayer, and memories. And I think celebrating the memories of those who have passed on can be a very positive and healing experience for all people, especially children.
Last year, we spent a day in Cozumel, Mexico, and one of the villages we visited had a traditional ofrenda on display. It's important to say that these ofrendas are NOT made in order to worship ancestors; they are made to honor them and remember them.
We used several online sources (links below) to help us learn what to include in our ofrenda. However, from what I have read, it seems that there is no 'wrong' way to create an ofrenda to honor your ancestor(s), and that every family has their own style and uses their own ideas and creativity to do it.
The Day of the Dead Ofrenda from Inside Mexico
Build a Day of the Dead Ofrenda to Honor Your Departed Loved Ones from Zinnia Folk Arts
How To Make a Day of the Dead Altar from TripSavvy
So, here is a photo of our ofrenda. We covered a bench with a white bed sheet and placed a large photograph of our ancestor (my grandmother, my kids' great-grandmother) in the center. We've included bread, water, salt, and fruit, along with various symbols of our Catholic faith, such as a cross, a statue of the Virgin Mary, and a rosary. We also have scented candles, which we lit (with adult supervision only!). We included one of my grandmother's books, because she loved to read, and a deck of playing cards, because she also enjoyed card parties with her friends. You can also include a few smaller photos, if you like.
Day of the Dead ofrendas are also often decorated with artistic representations of human skulls, also known as calaveras or sugar skulls, because they are often made of candy or dough and edible. We did not make sugar skulls, but we did color some paper ones to include on our ofrenda. I found a public domain image of a black-and-white calavera, so I copied it to a document (in two sizes) and made a printable for you to download.
Free Printable Dia de los Muertos Coloring Page
Day of the Dead Printable Craft
Dia de los Muertos Sugar Skull Boxes
Free Day of the Dead Printable
Day of the Dead Felt Craft for Kids
Elementary-Level Day of the Dead Vocabulary Worksheet & Word Search
And, of course, don't forget that your local library likely has some great kid-friendly picture books about Day of the Dead festivities and what they mean. Some of these are bilingual, too, so they are great if you are trying to introduce your child(ren) to Spanish. I've featured a few below:
©2017 Emily Kowalski Schroeder