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Día de Muertos altar commemorating a deceased man in Milpa Alta, México DF

An ofrenda (Spanish: "offering") is a collection of objects placed on a ritual altar during the annual and traditionally Mexican Día de los Muertos celebration. An ofrenda, which may be quite large and elaborate, is usually created for an individual person who has died and is intended to welcome him/her to the altar setting. A common format for an ofrenda contains three levels or tiers. The topmost tier identifies the dead person who is being invited to the altar, frequently with photos of the deceased, along with images of various saints, statuettes of the Virgin Mary, crucifixes, etc. which are positioned in a retablo which forms the back of the altar;[1] on the second tier are things placed to encourage the dead to feel at home and welcome: the deceased person's favorite food items might go here, including such things as mole, candy, pan dulce, and especially a sweet bread called pan de muerto. For deceased adults, the ofrenda might include a bottle or poured shot glasses of tequila or mezcal, while if the deceased is a child here might be placed a favorite toy. The bottom-most tier almost always contains lit candles, and might also have a washbasin, mirror, soap, and a towel so that the supposed spirit of the deceased can see and refresh themselves upon arrival at the altar. Throughout the altar are placed calaveras (decorated candied skulls made from compressed sugar) and bright orange and yellow marigolds (cempazuchitl), an Aztec flower of the dead. Ofrendas are constructed in the home as well as in village cemeteries and churches.[2][3]


  1. ^ Davíd Carrasco; Scott Sessions (31 July 2011). Daily Life of the Aztecs. ABC-CLIO. p. 251. ISBN 978-0-313-37744-0. 
  2. ^ Kenneth L. Untiedt (2008). Death Lore: Texas Rituals, Superstitions, and Legends of the Hereafter. University of North Texas. p. 149. ISBN 978-1-57441-256-7. 
  3. ^ Maria Herrera-Sobek (31 July 2012). Celebrating Latino Folklore. ABC-CLIO. p. 406. ISBN 978-0-313-34340-7.