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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Texas chapter.

As we enter October, many of us begin to get in the spooky mood of Halloween. Known as the most popular holiday in October for the U.S. and a major part of many childhoods, Halloween definitely deserves some recognition. Nevertheless, there’s a celebration that’s very meaningful for the Latinx community. Dia de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead in English, is a near two-day celebration (from the night of October 31st to November 2nd) and honoring for those who have passed away. Many of us may have seen the Disney movie Coco, which I personally love, and understand the general concept of the celebration. Creating an ofrenda with photos of our loved ones who have died along with some of their favorite things, like food or adornments, allows for them to pass visit us from the land of the dead. It’s a very treasured tradition within the Latino communities around the world. Unfortunately, some of us, myself included, never followed this celebration growing up and missed out on such an important part of our heritage. As we grow up we realize what we’ve missed and want to take part in it, so here is a detailed tutorial on how to make your own ofrenda to celebrate Dia de los Muertos. 

Step one: Creating the foundation

Clear a space in your home, or preferred location, that will not clutter up or has the potential to knock your ofrenda over. Make a mental (or physical) list and count how many people you want to honor and celebrate this Dia de Los Muertos. This can include far-off family, close relatives, close friends, and even past pets! Keeping this number in mind and how many items you want to present with each one choose the appropriate size base. Many people use a table, but, as college students, we don’t have that kind of room in our apartments so cardboard boxes work great! (We love to reuse here!) You can also stack the cardboard boxes to make layers for more space. As long as your base allows for your ofrenda to be elevated from the floor, it works. Next, pick a colorful tablecloth to drape over the base, many of these are sold in Latino supermarkets and stores, but you can also order them online. Traditionally, layered on the table cloth is a serape (just Google it, it’s hard to explain what it is). Optional but traditional, is another layer or decorative piece of papel picado, which is paper with patterns cut into it (yeah, Google this one too). 

Step Two: Marigolds

You have definitely seen these flowers before. They are bright orange, round, several petal layered, flowers. Many people make garlands of these to hang around the ofrenda or even cut the flower off the stem and place them on the ofrenda directly. Fresh flowers are always a great option, but plastic or even paper flowers are just as beautiful!

Step Three: Lights

If it’s not a safety hazard in the place you picked and if your home allows it, place candles on the alter and light them for a beautiful glow against the marigolds! A great alternative for this is fairy lights or small battery-powered candles! You just want to make sure your ofrenda is well-lit and has a warm feeling and presence. 

Step Four: Offerings

One of the most popular offerings for the dead is their favorite food. Whether they’re processed Twinkies or a secret homemade recipe, try your best to place their favorite foods or drinks on the offering. Another idea for offerings is a favorite object they had. This could be their favorite book, a lucky pencil, or if, they liked their job, a tool they used at their job. Music an even be an offering as a CD or album placed on the ofrenda. If you are celebrating a pet you can place one of their toys or even treats they loved! Additionally, you can place other trinkets to help decorate your ofrenda. Mini pumpkins, sugar skulls, candy, Jaros de Barro (look it up), or any decorations that fit the mood!

Step Five: Photos

Probably the most important part of the ofrenda is the photos. Print and place photos of your loved ones in frames and place them on the ofrenda. Pick photos that compliment them and remind you why you want to honor and celebrate them. Photos can be printed at places like CVS or Walmart and you can even buy cheap frames at Dollar Tree. Many people like to print out their names and a small paragraph about who they were and the accomplishments they would like to remember. 

Step Six: Honor and Celebrate 

Alright, maybe I lied, but THIS is the most important step. Whether you make your ofrenda a month before or a day before Dia de los Muertos, every time you pass by or look at the ofrenda, remember who you are honoring and celebrating. Even if you don’t believe in the Dead crossing over part, you have made a beautiful ofrenda to honor the ones who have passed. Try not to dwell on the sad feelings, but rather celebrate the lives they lived and the memories you made with them!

My Queens, Non-Binary Royals, and Kings, I hope you continue to honor and celebrate those who have passed from our lives. 

Don’t forget to stay safe.

Feliz Dia de los Muertos mis amores!

Alma Perez

Texas '25

Hello, ʕ •ᴥ•ʔ I am a current student at UT Austin majoring in Neuroscience. I plan to write about the many experiences I have lived through in the first 19 years of my life. I hope you read and enjoy it! p.s. yes, I have a therapist and psychiatrist, don't worry <3