The Day of the Dead or Dia de los Muertos in Mexico is now a fiesta embraced by the world. It’s so wonderful watching this country catch up to the fun customs Mexico has been doing for so long! What used to be a relatively unknown holiday and custom when I was growing up is now a BIG celebration worldwide. The ceramic skulls I used to collect when I was little are now all the rage for bohemian décor. And because the Day of the Dead, celebrated NOV 1st and 2nd in Mexico is so close to America’s Halloween—there’s now this meld of traditions happening. Just my thing, mixing old with new!
In our household, for Dia de los Muertos, we veer towards more of an old school feel for décor. So when I decided to throw a Day of the Dead brunch, I wanted to make sure we kept things traditional. First we began with the alter, the most important element of the celebration. We were honoring both of my grandmothers, Nana Lola and Nana Tula. Alters in Mexico are usually adorned with pictures, saints candles, marigolds and some of their favorite things. We threw together items reminding us of these fearless ladies: tortillas, beer, fresh flowers, tequila and coins for the slot machines (Nana Tula’s favorite pastime!) A yellow hand painted, wooden alter holds the black and white photos of my Abuelitas along with a picture of ‘La Virgen de Guadalupe,’ The Virgin Mary, Mexico’s patron saint. Around the table we did a play on Otomi embroidery, layering in texture upon texture in a medley of color combinations. Hand painted calavera skulls that light up when placed over candles, watching over from each corner.
We extended our theme to the table setting. Draping more Otomi tablecloths, in two tones. Placemats and custom napkins were also done in the hand embroidery made famous from the state of Puebla, Mexico. On each plate napkins in the style of textiles from San Andres, done in multi-color, geo patterns were folded, then tied to the cutlery by thin jute string for a rustic and casual feel. Each setting had Mexican hand blown glassware, for Paloma’s or just a sipper of tequila to toast to those we were remembering. Smaller replicas of Mexican sarape blankets draped over chairs and golden bougainvillea filling the pitcher centerpiece gave off a relaxed and inviting atmosphere. With a light menu including Mexican pastry, conchas and pan de muerte, with our famous family cocktail for this time of year, spiked Mexican hot chocolate, we were ready for good times.
To top it off, we decided to dress the part, wearing our Halloween costumes since they fit in so perfectly with our themes. A mother / daughter duo in Frida Kahlo costumes. I came across these absolutely stunning outfits on my last trip to Oaxaca. Folded in an old trunk inside one of the many amazing stores I walked into. I had to have them. I envisioned Alejandra and I sitting in front of an alter, taking pictures just like we’ve seen in black and white. Now Alejandra will know a little more of what it means to be from such a special place.
*PHOTOS BY MARISA VITALE @MARISAVITALEPHOTO