Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) is a Mexican holiday, celebrated Nov. 1 and 2, and it’s a time to honor the deceased. For the past few years, I created a Day of the Dead altar with my kids as a way to remember my four grandparents, none of whom my kids ever got to meet.
I took a small table, placed a box on top of it and covered the whole structure with a cloth so it has two tiers. Then, I decorated it with candles to represent faith and to help the spirits find their way, gourds, flowers (marigolds are traditionally used but any fall flower looks nice and reminds us of the impermanence of life), a glass of water that is said to quench the spirits’ thirst and serve as a symbol of purity, and photos.
I bought all of the items for my altar at El Rey, 1023 S. Cesar E. Chavez Dr., and Pueblo Supermarket, 2029 N. Holton St.
This year, we added the collar of our recently deceased dog, Clay, and my 6-year-old son wrote the names of the hamsters we lost on little slips of paper and added them to the altar: Lavender, Lavender 2, Cinnamon and Ginger. (It was a rough year for rodents in the ol’ Edler household.)
Also, I’ve seen altars adorned with bottles of tequila to offer the spirits a drink and /or a bar of soap for them to wash. Fruit and bread are commonly placed on the altar, too.
Some say the "veil" between the living and the dead disappears during this time of year, so the chance of communicating with the dead is more likely. Who knows, but if you don't have a Ouija board handy, you might want to build an altar and see if it’s true.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.