A “virtual ofrenda” for All Saints Day

Today is All Saints Day, and the first of los Dias de los Muertos. This is the day for remembering deceased loved ones.

Who are you remembering today? I’d like to invite you to create a virtual ofrenda with me. The traditional Mexican ofrenda has three levels, or tiers, so ours should, too.

On the top tier, we identify and invite our loved one to our ofrenda, usually with a photo of the person. If you’re thinking of someone, picture them in your mind, or find a photo. Perhaps this poem can be our invitation:

On the middle tier, we try to make them feel welcome. On a typical ofrenda, this welcome often takes the form of food or drink that the person enjoyed–a favorite dessert, treat, or brew/vintage/spirit. Take a moment to think about your loved one. Did they have a favorite drink (were they a Coke or Pepsi person, for instance?), or perhaps a favorite treat? I had an aunt who loved carrot cake. At dinner on the day of her interment, we remembered her with carrot cake for dessert.

Traditional ofrendas offer sweet breads, in addition to personalized foods: pan dulce or pan de muertoThey also decorate with calaveras (decorated sugar skull-shapes) and bright yellow and orange marigolds, the Aztec flower of the dead whose scent is thought to invite the spirits closer. On our virtual ofrenda, perhaps these will be appropriate:

On the bottom tier of the ofrenda, there are almost always lit candles, and frequently a washbasin of water, towel, comb, etc. so the spirit can refresh itself. The spirit realm, it seems, is a desolate, dusty space. So let’s offer your loved one’s spirit a virtual spa day.

The point of an ofrenda is honor and cherish loving memories of a person who is no longer living. To remember is to help extend your loved one’s legacy, and in a way to help them live on.

Let’s complete our virtual ofrenda by thinking of something sweet, loving, funny, or otherwise typical that your loved one did or said, that brings a warm feeling to your heart and a smile to your face. Such feelings are the best legacy of all.

I hope you (and your loved one’s spirit) have enjoyed my offering of this virtual ofrenda. If you’d like to extend your loved one’s life-in-memory and share a fun or touching story in the Comments section, I’d be honored.

IMAGES: I found the image with the poem by John F. Connor on Pinterest. Many thanks! I also am grateful to AskIdeas, for the “Welcome Back” sign, and to Milissa Silva-Diaz, whose La Experiencia Mexicana page gave me the photo of the pan de muertos, marigolds, and sugar skull. Thanks are due to Creative Blogging, for the “spa day” evocation photo; I feel refreshed, just looking at it. The “Remembering Good Times” image is from QuotesGram. The “Good Times + Crazy Friends” image is from hplyriks, via the QuotationInspiration Pinterest page. The “A Good Friend Knows” image is from DailyInspirationalQuotes, via Quotes By Who. The “Most treasured heirlooms” Quote is from Picture Quotes. MANY THANKS TO ALL! 

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jansgephardt

Kansas City-based Jan S. Gephardt is a writer, artist, and teacher. She makes nationally-recognized paper sculpture and writes sf mystery novels about a sapient police dog.

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