How to Make a Day of the Dead Altar

Celebrating the Dia de los Muertos Holiday and How to Make a Day of the Dead Altar

In the United States, the Day of the Dead, or Dia de lo Muertos, begins on October 31st and end on November 2nd. It is a Mexican holiday that is celebrated throughout Mexico particularly in the Central and South regions and people of Mexican ancestry here in the US.

Dia de los Muertos is a time to celebrate and remember friends and family members who have died. It is said that this celebration helps us guide the deceased on their spiritual journey. The altar is known as altares de Muertos or ofrendas (offerings).

Making a Day of the Dead Altar

A friend of mine, Yvonne from Moms LA, went on a thrift store hunt to create an alter from second hand finds.  After visiting a few stores, we found an old desk that was perfect. We liked the existing finish so we left it as is.

We made a small change to the wooden knobs. I suggested buying a pair of gold and orange earrings to repurpose for a steal at $5.00. Yvonne sawed the knob in half and I took apart the earrings and glued them onto the knobs with a strong bonding agent (E6000).

What food and drink are placed on the ofrenda?

Favorite foods and drinks of the deceased are specially prepared and placed on the alter. Yvonne placed fruit and bread and poured wine into some thrift store glasses she bought.


Pan de Muerto is the bread that is prepared and eaten during the Day of the Dead season. Other dishes that are served are tamale, fruits, and rice. Drinks like wine or hot chocolate can also be placed on the altar to quench the thirst of the dead after their long journey back home.

What is on the alter for Dia de los Muertos?

Altars are used to welcome the ancestors’ spirits into a home. We decorated the alter with lace and tulle, flowers ceramic skulls, and candles. Yvonne made sugar skulls which are often used to decorate the gravestones of the deceased.


We also spray-painted thrift store frames to hold cherished photos of family members. I removed the glass and backs and Yvonne spray painted them blue and yellow to add a pop of color.

DIY Day of the Dead Paper Flowers

Orange marigolds and chrysanthemums are a symbol of remembrance on the Day of the Dead. We made some out of tissue paper to place around the alter. You only need three items to make them.


  • Orange Tissue Paper
  • Scissors
  • String


  1. Cut the tissue paper into squares (any size).
  2. Each flower needs six squares. Lay them on top of one another and make an accordion fold.
  3. Tie a string around the center.
  4. Gently pull each layer of tissue paper up on both sides.

We used painter’s tape to attach them to the wall above the alter.


Note: We couldn’t find orange tissue paper, only red so we bought the red and added a mist of orange spray paint to add color and texture.

I hope you like it. I had a great time making this with Yvonne and learned so much about this beautiful holiday to celebrate our loved ones.


Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.