The Ofrenda is an integral part of the Dia de los Muertos
celebration. Ofrenda, if translated into English, means “offering,” and that is exactly what they are. Ofrendas are altars build to hold offerings to honor the deceased in ones family, town, country.
In a traditional ofrenda, a picture of the deceased is put in a box or stand, and is flanked by candles. Then, the people of the house put pan de Muertos, momentos, papel picados, zempasuchils, and incense inside.
The origin of the ofrenda comes from a synthesis of Roman Catholic and indigenous religious customs. The Aztec would offer food and water to the deceased so they would not menace the town as spirits in search of food. When the Conquistadores arrived in the mid 16th century, the Aztec people who survived the plague were forced to convert. They kept some of their customs alive by adding Roman Catholic themes like prayer candles and pictures of saints to their ofrendas. Thus began the tradition in Dia De Los Muertos we see today.