Make your own Day of the Dead 2021 altar using these essential elements

Day of the Dead 2021 is quickly approaching, a Mexican celebration where it is believed that the souls of the dead return to the world of the living, to live with relatives, and to draw on the essence of the food that is offered on the altars placed in their honor. Therefore, here we tell you the elements that make up an offering and their meaning.

Where to place your altar, and what elements to use

In a room or space suitable for a table or shelf, which must have levels, either two to represent heaven and earth or even three levels to add the concept of purgatory.

Portraits and objects of the deceased

You can place objects used by your loved one on the altar. If the soul is of a child, it is customary to put toys on the altar to give the child spirit something to play with on their visit each year. An image of the person, or persons, you are honoring with the altar should also be placed.


The colorful paper to decorate the offering is essential, you can also place silk or satin fabrics, and some people usually put clean clothes to receive the souls.


They represent hope and faith. It also serves as a guide so that the deceased can reach their old homes and have the return to their home illuminated. If the tapers or candlesticks are purple, it is a sign of mourning; and four are placed in the shape of a cross, representing the four cardinal points, so that the soul can orient itself until it finds its way home.

Food and drinks

Bread of the dead, mole, chicken, chocolates, or all those dishes that our loved one liked to eat while alive and a fundamental piece to your altar is a glass of water. Liquors can also not be absent from a good altar, it’s a celebration after all.


It is an element of purification, it serves so that the body is not corrupted in its round trip for the following year. A small bowl of salt can’t be forgotten. A finger bowl or ramekin works just fine.

Copal and incense

This element was offered by the natives to their gods and the incense was brought by the Spanish. The fragrances of both sublimate prayer or praise and are used to cleanse the place of evil spirits and avoid dangers.

Flowers for the Day of the Dead 2021

Because of their colors, they are a symbol of festivity, they adorn and aromatize the place during the stay of the soul. It is customary to create a path of marigold petals to guide the deceased towards the altar.

Sugar skulls

The sugar skull adds color and flavor to the offerings with those small skull-shaped sweets made of sugar, amaranth, and chocolate, and sometimes the name of the deceased is placed on them.

Days to place the offering

The altar is placed for November 1 and 2, however, in some parts of Mexico, such as in the south, people also use:

  • On  October 28, the first candle is lit and a white flower is placed to receive the souls.
  • On October 29,  another candle is lit and a glass of water is placed, dedicated to the forgotten and abandoned deceased among us.
  • On October 30, a new candle is lit and another glass of water is added, as well as white bread for those who left without eating, the unexpected deaths.
  • On October 31, another candle and another glass with water are placed, more bread and fruit, this is for our ancestors (great-grandparents, great-great-grandparents and more).

The origin of the Day of the Dead Altar

The Day of the Dead altar, or offering, is a cultural mix where Europeans put some flowers, waxes, candles, and candles; the natives added the incense with their copal and the food and the marigold flower.

The offering, as we know it today, is also a reflection of the syncretism of the old and the new world.

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