Día de los Muertos is a rich and soulful way to honor our ancestors and to cherish and remember lost loved ones in the company of community.  The ancient belief asserts that the souls of the deceased come to visit during Dia de los Muertos guided by the familiar sights and fragrances of the items on their altars and the sound of their loved ones gathered round. A meaningful way to participate in Birmingham's Dia de los Muertos is to bring a personal remembrance for a lost loved one.  These personal memorials, known as altars or ofrendas, vary from a single photograph of your loved one to an elaborate shrine in honor of that loved one.  Everyone is welcome to bring an altar to the festival.  We have a large covered Public Altar space especially for you and a few spaces that can be reserved for larger altars. Please read the guidelines below about sizes and remembering to take your altar back home.  

Remember to use copies of original items on your altar so that irreplaceable mementos are not lost or damaged.

Altars (ofrendas) often contain:

  • Photos of the departed 

  • Their favorite things in life, such as foods, books, games, beverages, cigarettes, etc.

  • Marigolds, coxcomb or other flowers

  • Prayer candles

  • Votive candles (battery operated are good for the festival) 

  • Water and salt to revive the soul after its long journey to visit

  • The festival provides many prayer candles, votives, and small dishes of water and salt on the public altar spaces.

  • Other traditional elements which can also be added to altars:

  • Skeletons depicting the departed going about everyday activities in the hereafter

  • Monarch butterflies whose fall arrival in Mexico symbolizes the souls returning to visit

  • Bright colorful sugar skulls decorated with royal icing (dry sugar skulls are not very attractive to ants)

  • Pan de muerto (bread of the dead) - a special bread baked for the occasion. If you bake or buy pan de muerto for the festival we suggest the kind without sugar to draw less ants.