The "ofrenda" is a decorated area, or altar, that displays offerings made to the deceased. These altars are set up during the Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico. It is believed that the spirits or souls of the dead come to earth to visit the loved ones they left behind.
A simple altar can be made using a shoebox. Set the shoebox to stand on the short end. Paint some Popsicle sticks and glue them into a frame to hold a picture of the deceased. Glue the frame onto the center of the bottom of the shoebox. Glue small items that represent the deceased's favorite things, plastic skulls and marigolds to the interior of the shoebox altar. Line the edges of the box with colorful crepe paper. Set a battery-operated votive or plastic "flameless" tea light candle in the bottom of the box.
Sugar Skull Replica
Sugar skulls are a type of candy made for the Day of the Dead. Replicas of sugar skulls can be made with aluminum foil and air-drying white modeling clay. Form a piece of aluminum foil into a ball and then press indentations into it with your fingers to create the nose and eyes of the skull. Cover the ball with white modeling clay that has been rolled out into a 1/4-inch-thick sheet. Use black glitter glue to color the eyes and nose holes and draw teeth on the skull's mouth. Use different colored glitter paints to make intricate swirls and dot patterns on the skull. Once the clay skull has dried and set overnight, place it on a Day of the Dead altar as a decoration.
Papel picado is Spanish for punched or perforated paper. It is a traditional Mexican folk art that is used to make banners that are hung over Day of the Day altars. You can make papel picado with tissue paper. Place the tissue paper on the table so that the longest edge is at the top. Fold the top down 1 inch. The string to hold the banner will be glued in this first fold. Then fold the paper lengthwise several more times and align the edges during each fold. Cut out notches along the side and bottom edge. Make the notches in different geometric patterns, as you would when cutting a paper snowflake. Then glue the string in the first fold and hang the banner over the altar.
Marigolds are considered the flowers of the dead. Their scent and vibrant color are thought to help the deceased find their way to the altars that have been made for them. Marigolds can be made with orange tissue paper. Fold the tissue paper in half lengthwise and then fold it in half again. Turn it so that the short end is facing you. Fold the paper into an accordion shape, as you would in making a paper fan. Wrap a green pipe cleaner around the middle of the tissue paper for the stem of the flower. Cut the ends of the folds and spread them in a circle around the pipe cleaner. Pull up each layer of the tissue paper toward the center to arrange them in the shape of a marigold.
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