I’m sure if you’re reading this you are probably a mom, or a dad with a small child that’s watched Disney’s Coco at least once, or maybe close to a thousand like us! So if you were not formally familiar with Dia de Los Muertos, Miguelito and his journey to get his “GREAT GREAT Grandfather’s” blessing helped clue you in. MY first experience with Dia de Los Muertos was while visiting the boy’s Dad(exhusband) while he was living in Rosarito, Mexico. I was so intrigued by the store fronts with the beautiful sugar skulls, various fruits and vegetables, some trinkets, photos and food. When Coco came out I was OH SO excited, I happily watched it with my babies and may have suggested it a couple of those thousand times.
Now, believe it or not I am not Mexican. I am for whatever reason a Mexican girl trapped in an extremely white girl’s body, but we will get to that another time. The first year we celebrated the Day of the Dead was the year after my Dad passed away. I saw on Facebook that the Hospice that helped take care of my beloved father, and us really, were putting on a DOTD candlelight vigil to honor those that have passed, we attended the vigil and when it was my time to share I went silent. I was, and still am heavily grieving my father’s passing and it was just too soon to speak out loud about it. They understood. It was beautiful though, we met up in old Arroyo Grande now called, The Village of Arroyo Grande, and did a walk through the village with our candles in silence. Most of my Dad’s fondest memories were growing up in Arroyo Grande, it was a beautiful few moments of silence and how wonderful we were able to take that walk as a family. The next day they held a celebration at the mission in San Luis Obispo. My husband and I took the kids and we loved so much watching the dances, and traditional clothing and of course the food. They had for sale a “pan de muerto” a type of pan dulce. It looked delicious and we meant to take one home but with all the commotion we forgot.
This year was the year I decided our family would make our very own Ofrenda and display it here in our home during the days of Dia de Los Muertos, Oct 31- Nov 2. I of course waited until the very last-minute to try to put it together because I have 4 kids and that’s just how it goes. My husband and I had a couple old pallets in the backyard we had used to make a war zone for our son’s FortNite Party that we thought would be perfect to make a shelf out of. My husband brought me the best of the two and we went to work late at night after a full day of work for him, and an hour drive to pick up our suburban that was having some work done. What a guy, right?
We sprayed it down for bugs then the next day I began to decorate. I knew I wanted the Papel Picado, Marigolds I would have to make from paper because I murdered the real ones I bought from the store. Picture of my Dad, Picture of my Best Friend, Picture of Leo’s Grandparents and pictures of Leo’s cousin Isaac. We wanted to include their favorite snacks, and really try our best to make it look like the best ofrenda ever. I was so excited! at the beginning all I kept thinking was how beautiful it would look and how fun it would be to put it together. It was beautiful, and it started out as fun, never did I anticipate the emotions I would go through while creating each individual piece.
First I needed to make the marigolds out of tissue paper. I’m telling you I was really hoping to use the fresh beautiful flowers of orange I bought at the store but that just did not work out. So after the gym, the girls and I went to Michael’s Craft Store and collected bright-colored tissue paper, floral wire and headed home. After lunch I put the girls down for a nap and got to work. The whole time I’m thinking I’ve seen these made before, sent a picture to Kristi my BFF who told me she made dozens for my bridal shower. OHHH! Love them! The significance of adding the Marigolds is because it is believed that the vibrant colors and beautiful scent help guide the dead on their journey. Marigolds are also known as cempasuchitl, a word dating back to the language of the Aztecs.
Nevermind my clubbed thumbs everyone! Google says they’re also known as “Royal Thumbs” that’s right! Fit for a Queen!
Next was the Papel Picado, which is a beautiful banner made of tissue paper cut out into little designs. It reminded me of making a snowflake. Funny story, there is a great Mexican Restaurant here in town and a few months ago when we attempted to take the family our Macy called it “The Coco Place” due to their beautiful Papel Picado banners. The girls were napping at this time and the boys had just arrived from school and wanted to help. So I took advantage of the 5 minutes I had with them before they got bored, typical! The significance of Papel Picado on the Day of the Dead is because it represents air, or the wind helping us know when the our loved ones have arrived.
Next I needed to make the Pan de Muerto that I had mentioned earlier in the post. To be quite honest as I always am! I’ve only tried to make pan dulce 2 other times and both times they turned out not so great. Edible but not up to my standards. So, I did not take pictures of the making of this Pan de Muerto. I will however share the recipe used which I found on one of my most favorite blogs.
My only trouble with the receta was that I could not find “Orange Essence” or “Orange Blossom Water” ANYWHERE! SO I decided to pretend like I was on Food Network’s Holiday Baking Championship and make my own orange liquor I guess you would call it. We had a bottle of Tito’s Vodka left in our cabinet that a friend had left so I shaved peels of 1 orange and boiled 1 cup of vodka with the peels until it reduced to the amount needed for my Pan de Muerto. DID I JUST SHARE ANOTHER SECRET? The bread turned out moist and amazing, we enjoyed munching on the pieces that weren’t left at the ofrenda for our loved ones. The Significance of the Pan de Muerto are the bones rolled out and placed on top of the pan, and also the tear drop to represent sadness and sorrow.
Next it was time to put together our ofrenda. This was when the sadness started to kick in. My husband, the boys and I hung the Papel Picado. Glued, strung and hung the Marigolds. Placed candles, a glass of water to feed their thirst from their journey, sugar skull decorations, a dish with the pan dulce, and finally pictures of our lost loved ones with an item of their favorite.
Since this blog is about our family, and our lives wide open I’m sure you are guessing who these good-looking folks in our Ofrenda are, right? Especially since a couple of them look so young in these photos. They were young, way too young…
We started creating our Ofrenda the night before Halloween, and finished before trick or treating so we could come back to light the candles and wait for them to visit. They came, we had signs from each one of them. This will be a new tradition of ours and we will be creating an ofrenda next year for Dia de Los Muertos as well. RIP family, and as today is the last day of Dia de Los Muertos I hope the journey home is pleasant. We love and miss you all SO much!