To many traditional families in the Southwest and in Mexico, building an Altar de las Ofrendas, meaning “offerings” in Spanish, is one of the most important traditions to honor those who have passed during days leading up to the Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. The practice originated in central and southern Mexico.
After the house is cleaned carefully, an altar is carefully constructed with love. A table is covered with a white tablecloth, and then with a white cut tissue or lace covering. Several levels are built, and on the top level, images of saints and religious figures are placed.
The ofrendas are not offerings that worship those who have passed, but which are intended to honor ancestors. Offerings are laid out on the altar, usually including candles, salt, water, flowers, pictures of the deceased, and sugar skulls. An interesting fact that we recently discovered was that centuries ago, before sugar came to North and South America, Aztec people molded skulls out of amaranth seeds.