Introduction: Halloween 'Day of the Dead' Alter

This year my Halloween Theme was 'Day of the Dead', so I wanted to greet my guests with the 'Day of the Dead' Alter or Ofrenda.

Enjoy my Instructable!

Step 1: Step 1: Alter Base Supplies (everything You Already Have On-hand)

To build the alter I started with the following:

  • 2 pieces of furniture - It doesn't matter what they look like, as they will be covered. However, they should be stable, since you will be building your alter with these as the base.
  • Used boxes in all shapes and sizes. I used whatever I had laying around the house.
  • Packing tape to secure the boxes to the bases and each other.

Optional: I used a piece of MDF board for the top of the front furniture piece because the furniture top was smaller than I wanted. I nailed a strip of molding on the MDF that matched the edges of the furniture top to stop it from sliding if someone bumped it.

Step 2: Assembling the Alter

  1. Place the furniture pieces where you want the alter located. I used 2 pieces of furniture, but you really only need 1 to get a complete look.
  2. Stack the boxes in the center of the furniture top to create small 'steps'. Mine are between 3 and 5 inch steps. Don't attach anything until you like the look of your alter. Play with turning boxes on their sides to get the look you want to achieve.
  3. Once you are happy with the layout of the boxes, secure them to each other and the furniture base with LOTS of packing tape.

Step 3: Adding Fabric to Cover Alter Base

For the fabric to cover this alter, I used the following:

  1. Large white tablecloth (alter front and main shelf)
  2. Piece of black fabric (Shelves 1 & 2)
  3. Piece of red fabric (Shelves 3, 4, & 5)
  4. Halloween black skull lace to decorate front
  5. Embroidered napkin and table runner to further embellish the shelves.

The white tablecloth I owned and the Black Skull fabric I purchased at a major fabric retailer. All the other fabric I purchased very inexpensively at a Charity Store.

Step 4: Final Step: Get Creative and Decorate the Alter

Since I was decorating the alter for a Halloween Party, I wanted to keep the decorations light and festive.

There are a few items that I have seen 'Day of the Dead' alters all contain: Flowers, Candles, and Photos.

Candles: I used mainly flameless candles, but I did have some real candles on the stable main shelf that I lit when guest were arriving and I was right there to keep an eye on the flame.

Flowers: I used silk flowers in many cases, and some live marigold heads (the traditional 'Day of the Dead' flower) on the alter.

Photos: Since this was for a 'Day of the Dead' Halloween Party, I didn't want to use pictures of departed family members. SO...I used some 'old school' cartoon characters - Speedy Gonzales, Slowpoke Rodriguez, Quick Draw McGraw as 'el kabong', and his sidekick Baba Looey.

In addition, I added:

  • Sugar Skulls
  • Mexican traditional candy
  • Religious statues
  • Fully dressed skeletons to complete the look (see my other Instuctables to make the Skeleton Stand)


Halloween Decor Contest

Participated in the
Halloween Decor Contest