Genealogy-Gencrafts Getting your genealogy assets out of the file cabinets and onto your walls
Browsing all posts in: Day of the Dead

Present your Mexican Lineage on an Antiqued Sugar Skull

November 8







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Making A Unique Ofrenda from a Shutter Frame

October 19

Celebrate your Mexican ancestors with this Simple Shutter Frame Ofrenda

Photograph of simple but unique Ofrenda

Perfect addition to your table top family alter.


Photo of matterials to make shadow box Ofrenda

To make the shadow box Ofrenda, I started with a Plaid brand Shutter Frame, a wooden laser cut oval frame and some packing material that came with a small hard drive.


Photo of painted frame.

I wanted the shutters to look like “Papal Picado” so I painted each one different tissue paper colors. I painted the shadow box black, so I painted the frame in front a contrasting bright color.


Photo of the frame and Day of the Dead notions.

I pulled out all of my Day of the Dead themed notions.


Photo of oval frame.

The oval frame needed a way to float in front of the shadow box so I used hot glue to glue a couple tin flowers on the front of the frame.

Photo of oval frame.

I used hot glue to suspend the oval frame over the shadow box hole.

Photo showing the placement of the oval frame.

Center the oval frame in the space where the photo usually goes.


Photo showing the oval frame in place.

Oval frame in place.


Photo of my great grandfather

I glued a photograph of my great grandfather onto a piece of scrap cardboard I painted black to give it a stiff support to suspend behind the oval frame. I wanted a 1/4 setback between the photo and the oval frame but it would have been simple to just hot glue or tape the photograph behind the oval frame.


Photo showing gluing beads on the back of the photo.

I glued 4 beads onto the back of the photo to space the photo away from the back wall of the the shadow box, but keeping it 1/4″ from the oval frame.


Photo of portrait placement in the shadow box.

I was happy with the placement of the photo, but I did not glue the shadow box to the back of the frame yet.


Photo of decorated frame.

I used my assorted notions to decorate the frame.


Photo of close up of skull candle holder.

I used a small plastic cross and glued a skull to the cross to make a candle holder. Then I melted a one inch section from the top of a gold birthday candle, using a bit of hot glue.


Photo of decorative tape used as Papel Picado.

I had originally thought I would make tiny cut tissue paper Papel Picado for the shutters, but I found and used decorative tape to make the shutters look like Papel Picado. This was much easier and far more intricate than I would have ended up with had I followed my original plan.


Photo of Ofrenda

I made miniature Papel Picado banners to hang across the open Ofrenda.


Photo of side view

Side view



Photo of finished Ofrenda

I had intended on tucking paper marigolds in the shadowbox behind the picture but I decided the black was much more dramatic and so I left it flat black and glued the shadow box with the photo behind the frame.

I hope my tutorial has inspired you to create one of your own. Please leave any comments or questions below. I would love to hear about your genealogy crafts. If you need any of the supplies from Amazon, please click through using the Genalogy-GenCraft affiliate links below.



If you are interested in ordering from, please click on any of these ads to be directed to their site. Any purchases, while there, will give us a small bonus, at no extra cost to you. This will help fund the Genealogy-GenCrafts here on the web. Thanks ~ Jackie

Supplies for this Project


Other “Day of the Dead” themed items you may be interested in…

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“Day of the Dead” – Traditional Celebration of Mexican Ancestors and the Art those Ancestors

October 11

Because of the overlapping dates, “The Day of the Dead” decorations have become very popular recently for use while decorating for Halloween, without the people using the boldly colorful skeletons and skulls being aware of the true meaning of the holiday.

“The Day of the Dead” originated in Mexico 2000-3000 years ago. It was originally a month long celebration around August by the Aztec Indians, and is currently also celebrated in other parts of Latin America and the United States but is not part of any Halloween tradition. Instead it is a fusion of Spanish Catholic and Mexican traditions and beliefs, to honor ancestors, family, friends and sometimes even pets, who have died.


Mexican traditions hold that each individual dies three times. Once when their bodies quit functioning. Once when their bodies are put into the ground or cremated. And once when they are forgotten.

Unlike it’s spooky cousin Halloween, The Day of the Dead is a joyous holiday celebrating the ancestors, family and friends who have passed on to their next lives.

People from Mexico believe souls have the ability to travel back and forth between this world and the next and during the Day of the Dead celebration their souls come back and visit. So there must be preparations and accommodations made for the returning spirits.

The Day of the Dead is Celebrated on October 31st, November 1 and November 2.

On October 31st the food is cooked, the home alters are constructed (see below), the cemeteries cleaned and the graves decorated with Ofrendas, or offerings. These decorations include wreaths of marigolds, which are thought to attract the souls of the dead toward the offerings, and toys brought for dead children (los angelitos, or little angels) and bottles of tequila, mezcal, etc. for adults.. After cleaning all day, they party all night long at the cemeteries where stories of the deceased are told and excess of food and the alcohol consumed. On November 1st while the Roman Catholics celebrate All Saints Day, the Mexicans celebrate “Dia de los Santos” to honor the children which is called “Dia de los Inocentes” or “Day of Little Angels”. November 2nd “All Souls Day”, “Dia de los Fielles Difuntos” is celebrated by the Roman Catholics and in Mexico they celebrate “Dia de los Muertos” or “Day of the Dead”

As a part of the Day of the Dead celebration, families build altars in their homes for loved ones who have died.

“Day of the Dead” altars have many traditional elements representing the elements of nature. Water, Wind, Fire (candies) and Earth (food and marigold flowers which are yellow or gold like the sun, representing life and hope.) are represented, photos, candy and chocolate or sugar skulls, skeletons of all kinds, mementos and cut paper decorations called papel picado.

Photo of Ofrenda

At only 5.5″ x 8″ this little Ofrenda packs quite the punch of Day of the Dead Symbolism.

 Sugar Skull

  • Calaveras: Brightly decorated skulls, made of sugar, paper machie or ceramic and can represent specific ancestors, family or departed friends, inscribed with the names of the deceased on the forehead. They can be used alone or with other traditional decorations to embellish Day of the Dead altars.
Photos of Sugar Skull Cookies

Sugar Skull Cookies

  • Food: particular favorites of the ancestors, including tamales, empanyadas, candies,  pumpkin seeds and amaranth seeds which were used by the Aztecs to make the skulls instead of sugar.

  • Monarch Butterflies: Monarch Butterflies migrate to Mexico in the fall and are believed to be the spirits coming to visit.
  • Candles: Representing fire, candles are burnt on the family alter to guide the spirits back from the afterlife.
  • Alcoholic beverages: Used to toast the departed. The Aztecs had a beverage called pulque made from the sap of agave that they served for special spiritual ceremonies.
  • Papel Picados: Hand cut tissue paper represents the wind and how fragile life is.
  • Dogs: Believed to guide the ancestors spirits to the afterlife.
  • Milagros:  The flaming heart, is a popular symbol for expressing love and passion on the home altar. Milagros translates to “little miracles”.

Photo of ofredas

This simple 10″ tall ofredas was simple to make using a “Shuttered Picture Frame”.

For complete instructions/inspiration

Click Here

You can take these traditions one step further by incorporating entire pedigrees of your ancestors into traditional Day of the Dead art projects.

Photo of the Color it yourself, Day of the Dead Pedigree Chart

Day of the Dead 4 Generation Pedigree Chart

Help support the blog by downloading a copy of the 4 generation Adult Coloring Page


Here is a short video of my Alter Display at the Anchorage Dia De Los Muertos Event.

UNESCO has declared the indigenous festivity dedicated to the dead as an intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (

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