Thrifty Day of the Dead Ofrenda!

By Lindsey Gallardo (@4_seasons_settings on Instagram)

Fall is here and there’s no better way to welcome in the season with some spooktacular decorations! Many people decorate for Halloween but let’s not forgot about el Día de Los Muertos or Day of the Dead celebrated November 2, 2023. Day of the Dead, is a Mexican holiday where families welcome back the souls of their deceased relatives for a brief reunion that includes food, drink and celebration.

For those of you who don’t know, according to tradition, the gates of heaven are opened at midnight on October 31 and the spirits of children can rejoin their families for 24 hours. The spirits of adults can do the same on November 2.

With this historical celebration in mind I decided to head to my local Goodwill to search for some great one-of-a-kind pieces that are totally unique. Goodwill also resales, recycles and repurposes almost 236 million pounds of materials each year that might otherwise land in landfills.

What items to search for and how to decorate your home

Traditionally, during el Día de Los Muertos, the living family members treat the deceased as honored guests in their celebrations, and leave the deceased’s favorite foods and other offerings at gravesites or on the Ofrendas built in their homes. Ofrendas or fireplaces can be decorated with candles, bright marigolds called cempasuchil and red cock’s combs alongside food like stacks of tortillas and fruit. The most prominent symbols related to the Day of the Dead are calacas (skeletons) and calaveras (skulls). Many people also add personal photos of their deceased family members.

With that in mind, I started by searching for some smaller bright colored picture frames to celebrate the colorful culture. Your local thrift stores offer a variety of styles, sizes and colors so there’s lots to choose from. Pro tip, you can always spray paint any decor to match your desired Ofrenda color scheme.

With my frames ready, I added some portraits of deceased family members and tried to collect some older photos to add some spookyness to my Ofrienda. Before setting the frames, it’s a good idea to start with some lights or candles to add some brightness to your scene. I went with string lights and candles to set an ambient mood. The teal candle holder pictured in my photo was perfect for adding some height and depth, and I also added a neat little styrofoam candy skull on top which I got at the Goodwill. 

I hung some Papel Picado which has been part of the life of Mexicans. In whatever event they celebrate, they never forget to hang Papel Picado on their homes and streets. The styles and designs of Papel Picado are usually adorned in vibrant colors. Lastly, I added some smaller details such as some marigolds (or any flowers you choose). Usually I spot a variety of faux flowers and plants at the thrift store when I shop. I found some great crosses which commemorate the Catholic Church holiday, All Saints Day if you choose to add some. Adding some items such as bread or wine is also to have believed to help the persons soul, and assist with the journey to reach the land of the dead.

Other items you can help add to your fall theme would be some pumpkins or a Mexican serpé blanket. I think you can’t go wrong with creating your own personal touch and I hope these tips help you create your own awesome Ofrenda for this holiday season!

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