How to Make A Day of the Dead Altar

Day of The Dead

This year I have decided to follow the Mexican tradition and create my own altar for Día de Los Muertos or Day of the Dead.  In Mexico, Day of the Dead is a holiday where we celebrate life, and honor the loved ones that have passed away.  If you haven’t visited Mexico during this holiday, you might be surprised to see how festive the celebrations are!  There is lots of food, bright colors, and special decorations, but my favorite part of the celebrations are the altars we create for our deceased loved ones.  This year I will be creating an altar for the first time, and I wanted to share with you some things I learned about them, and tips how to create your own Day of the Dead altar.

Day Of The Dead

Day of the Dead altars are very personal and are typically devoted to family members or other loved ones.  However you can also find altars erected in memory of celebrities.  While certain elements are found in most altars, the most important thing is to make it create something personal and meaningful for yourself.

What you will need:
- Table or a tall surface
-  Tissue paper (papel picado) – Traditionally we use purple, white and pink, which symbolize pain, hope and celebration
-  2 boxes
- Black cloth – To cover the table and boxes
- Photograph of the honoree
- Pictures of saints
- Candles from beeswax or paraffin – You need at least 4
- Candy skulls and skeletons – You need at least 3
- Incense – In particular White Copel
- Food – Including Day Of The Dead Sweet Bread, Fruits, Tamales and other deceased favorites
- Water and/or other beverages
- Yellow Marigold flowers
- Salt in a small bowl/dish
- Other personal objects and belongings that represent the honoree

Creating Day of The Dead Altar:

  1. Cover the table or surface with tissue paper or black cloth.  Use papel picado to decorate the area behind the altar.
  2. Place 2 boxes, covered in tissue paper on the table. The important thing to note is that the altar needs to have 3 levels (that’s why we use 2 boxes).
  3. Place the photograph of the honoree on the altar’s highest tier  and also include the images of the chosen saints.
  4. Place objects that the person liked and/or their personal belongings on each tier of the altar.
  5. Decorate the altar with candles in different shapes and sizes, to light the way for the spirits.  4 candles should be placed on the top tier, to represent the 4 points of the compass.
  6. Add candy skulls and skeletons (Las Catrinas) to your decoration.  3 skulls on the second tier represent the holy trinity.
  7. Include traditional Day of The Dead sweet bread (Pan de Muertos).  Legend says this bread is eaten by the deceased when they come to visit their loved ones.   You can also add tamales and mole.  For children leave sweets and fruit.  The fruit, along with the deceased’s favorite food, symbolize the earth’s bounty.
  8. Include a glass of water, in case your loved ones are thirsty.  Besides water you can add any other beverage that your loved one liked.
  9. In a little dish or bowl add salt to season the food and for purification.
  10. Burn incense, especially white copel, to guide the dead to the altar.
  11. Adorn the altar with yellow marigolds (we call them cempasuchitl, flower of the dead) to represent life’s brevity.

 

At Capella Pedregal we will celebrate Día de Los Muertos with Pan de Muerto and Chan Luu’s Trunk Show.  Employees will also compete to create the most impressive altar.  I am excited to create my first altar this year!  Will you be creating yours?  Don’t hesitate to share it with me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

 

If you need inspiration, visit my  Day of the Dead Pinterest board.

Floral Arrangement With Harijanto Setiawan

Arranging Flowers With Harijanto Setiawan

One of my favourite aspects of Capella Singapore’s extended-stay residence, The Club, is the monthly recreational workshops.  Over the weekend I had the pleasure of attending the floral arrangement workshop held by Harijanto Setiawan, Principal Florist and owner of Boenga.  Hari, as he is affectionately known, is the talent and creative genius behind the magical setups at many of the events at Capella Singapore.

Floral Arrangement With Harijanto Setiawan

As he demonstrated how to weave the plants to create a floral masterpiece, Hari gave the residents seven useful tips on how to prolong the life of fresh cut flowers:

1.  Before getting started, clean your vase thoroughly with warm water and dish soap. Use white vinegar or bleach to wipe the insides.

2. Add a teaspoon or two of sugar and bleach into your vase before adding water.  Make sure the water is room temperature. The sugar’s carbohydrates will help to feed the stems, while the bleach helps to keep the water bacteria-free.

3. Remove any foliage from the stem to avoid submerging any leaves in the water. Leaves in the water will break down and cause bacteria to form.

4. Trim the end of each stem at a 45-degree angle and submerge immediately in water.

5. Do not include too many flowers in the vase. Overcrowded stems will wilt more quickly and release more bacteria into the water.

6. Keep your floral arrangements out of direct sunlight if possible. Always pluck out any wilted stems to keep the rest of the flowers looking fresh.

7. Change the water in your bouquet and give the stems a fresh angled cut at least every other day.

With regards to creating the perfect floral arrangement, Hari likes to practice the “Less is more” concept.  He explained, “There is no wrong or right way of creating your own floral masterpiece. The most important thing is that you need to feel good when you look at it.”

I really enjoyed the class and will be sure to include the advice when I buy flowers for my own home.  The class was so fantastic, that I am looking forward to the next course offered at The Club.

How To Make A Pinata

Pinata Fest

In Mexico, pinatas are a central part of every celebration.  They are especially popular during Las Posadas, the traditional processions, which take place during the nine days before Christmas.

Here at Capella Ixtapa, a pinata making class is being offered to guests interested in learning about this Mexican tradition.  But for those of you unable to attend, I have put together the instructions for you.

Pinata Fest

Materials:
-A Clay Pot or A Balloon (traditionally in Mexico a clay pot is used)
-Newspaper
-2 Bowls
-Flour
-Glue
-Colored Tissue Paper
-Rope
-Masking Tape
-Cardboards
-Candies (or other small items to fill the piñata)

Directions:
1. Take one bowl and fill it up with flour.  Add water until you create a smooth paste (tip: the final paste should have the consistency of the pancake batter).  Use the second bowl as your base to hold the pot or balloon.

2. Cut the rest of the newspaper into 2-3 inch wide strips.  Start dipping one paper strip after the other into the bowl of flour paste and placing it tightly over the balloon or clay pot.  Cover the entire balloon at least three times over to make a sturdy pinata base (if you are using a clay pot as a base, cover the pot with ten layers of paper – when pinata brakes these layers will hold the pot shards and protect them from flying around).  Allow the base to dry over night checking to make sure that the bowl doesn’t adhere to the piñata base.

3. Next, use a box cutter to cut a small hole at the top right and top left side of the dried pinata.  Cut a softball-sized hole in the top of the pinata— don’t throw the cut out section away, you will need it later!  Pull the balloon out from the inside.

4. Stick the rope into the small hole you made on the top right side of the pinata.  With the help of the bigger hole, guide the rope out the small upper-left hole.  You’ll use this rope to hang the pinata.  Cover and reinforce the small holes with masking tape.  These holes will bear a lot of weight when the pinata is hanging, so they need to be sturdy.  Fill the pinata with all the goodies.  Tape the softball-sized cutout section back onto the pinata.

5. The most traditional style pinata has seven cones in a star shape.  To create the cones  (or any other shape!) fold and glue cardboard to the pinata form.  Your pinata is now ready to be decorated!

6. Take your tissue paper and cut it in three-inch strips.  Glue the paper strips on the pinata.  You can for example have a colorful ‘body’ of the pinata, and then make each cone its own color.

 

Have a wonderful Christmas celebration! If you make your own piñata, please don’t forget to share it with me on Twitter or Facebook.

And if you are able to join us at Capella Ixtapa for the holidays, then be sure to contact your Personal Assistant for information and dates of our Christmas events and celebrations at pa.ixtapa@capellahotels.com!

 

Image via Flickr by Joey Parsons