Marigolds are one of my favorite flowers and dyes -- the warm golden hue found on their petals and transferred to yarn and cloth light up the room -- the color is like a warm embrace. We grow them almost all year long -- and they take a special significance at this time of year when we celebrate Dia de los Muertos.
Every year, during the last week of October, I assemble a small altar called an ofrenda - which means "offering" in Spanish.
I make this in honor of Day of the Dead also known as Dias de los Muertos, celebrated on November 1 and 2 across Mexico, the U.S., and all places where those of Mexican descent live. The purpose of the alter is to remember and celebrate the lives of our loved ones who have passed.
On our altar, I place photos of Kristine and my relatives, friends, as well as our beloved pets. To please the spirits that visit during this time, we decorate with candles, marigolds, incense burner, framed pictures, paper decorations, food, and drink. Every night this week, through November 2nd, we light the candles and incense on the altar.
We place our ofrenda in the center of our living room on the fireplace mantle. It is the first thing you see when you walk in the front door of our house. Death is something we all experience and share, though it also can be incredibly difficult to process. When we see the bright, beautiful marigolds, the feeling of happiness emanates from the altar throughout the room; we do not think of our loved ones in their death rather in their most cherished moments of life spent with them. The altar and this time presents a special space for Kristine and I to be together to share stories, to remember, and to connect. Our altar provides a space to process.
I have a particular fondness for ephemera such as postage stamps and postcards, and I find textiles combined with natural dyeing as a medium particularly receptive towards stamping and imprinting time. Last year we saved our marigolds from our altar to dye a piece of cloth. Throughout the year, when seeing this cloth, I remember our altar, our loved ones, and time spent together around the altar. It keeps me close to them and I feel connected. And then when the time comes again to create our altar, I use this cloth to decorate, building upon the memories.
I would like to invite you to:
+ Create an alter of your own - click here to learn about the history and culturally-sensitive ways to celebrate.
+ Visit the Oakland Museum of California's Honoring El Dia De Los Muertos exhibit and attend their virtual community celebration.
+ Come to Verb tomorrow, at noon, and contribute to our community altar. Bring a photo or drawing of a loved one you would like to remember, marigolds if you have them, a sweet (pan dulce) or another treat your loved one enjoyed. Once the alter is complete we will include it in a future email for all to enjoy.