The term Ofrenda means offering, and in the context of the Day of the Dead, it holds a special meaning. The ofrenda is a bridge to be closer to the lives of those no longer with us.
In Oaxaca, as in many other parts of Mexico, The Day of the Dead is celebrated on November 1st and 2nd. It is a time for families to remember and honor the deceased ones. During this time, the dead return to visit the living, so families set up their altars on October 30th and 31st.
The Ofrenda, or altar, is a central element of this celebration, built on a table in people's homes, graveyards or public spaces.
Ten Most Relevant Elements of the "Altar" or "Ofrenda"
1. Photographs: Families place pictures of the deceased loved ones on the ofrenda to remember them and invite them to visit.
2. Candles or Veladoras: They light the path for the spirits and guide them to the ofrenda.
3. Marigold flowers (cempasúchil): This vibrant orange-yellow flower is often associated with the Day of the Dead. The petals are sometimes scattered from the grave to the home, serving as a pathway for the spirits.
4. Food and drink: Placing on the ofrenda traditional foods like "pan de muerto" (bread of the dead), mole, chocolate, and other favorite dishes and beverages of the deceased loved ones is a gesture to welcome them after their journey. The belief is that the spirits consume the essence of the food, and afterward, the living eat the physical food in a communal celebration.
5. Incense: Copal, a tree resin, is often burned to cleanse the area and ward off evil spirits.
6. Sugar skulls: These decorative and colorful skulls made of sugar are both an art form and a symbol of death.
7. Water: People often put a glass of water on the altar to give the spirits a drink after their long trip back to our world.
8. Personal Items: Objects that belonged to the deceased or items that remind the family of their loved ones, such as toys for children or a favorite book or piece of clothing.
9. Papel Picado: These are detailed, colorful paper banners that show how short and fragile life is.
10. Salt represents purity and delays putrefaction.
As the Day of the Dead in Oaxaca is the most important celebration, we have carefully designed the Day of the Dead Program in which you can partake and immerse yourself in the culture of Oaxaca and enhance your Spanish language skills at the same time.