Day of the Dead, or Día de los Muertos, is a culturally significant tradition in Mexico and Central America. Celebrated annually from November 1st to 2nd, the holiday stems from the Aztecs. Aztec civilizations historically celebrated the Aztec goddess of death and their ancestors for an entire month.
Those who celebrate Dia de los Muertos believe that their deceased loved ones return for a visit on this day, a way to keep our bond with those we’ve loved and lost very much alive. Remembering our pets on Day of the Dead is a heartfelt way to honor their memory. It’s also a wonderful way to recall the many beautiful moments we shared with them. Here are some of the ways you too can celebrate Day of the Dead and your beloved pet.
Day of the Dead Altars Dedicated to Our Pets
Traditionally, families create ‘ofrendas’ or altars dedicated to their departed loved ones. Altars are adorned with marigolds, candles, sugar skulls, and mementos of the deceased. The idea of the altars is to present our deceased loved one’s with their favorite items. That way, they get to enjoy these things when they return for their annual visit on Dia de los Muertos.
To create your pet’s Day of the Dead Altar, include your pet’s photo, their collar, a favorite toy, and their most beloved snacks or food. If they loved taking walks, for example, include their harness and leash on the display. If they played fetch, find a ball similar to the one they used to love. Find their bowls and fill them with something tasty, even apples and fruits if that’s all you have on hand.
It is common for pet parents to have a hard time giving away or discarding their departed pets’ belongings. The grief and finality of discarding their belongings makes parting with them very difficult. Instead, lovingly displaying these items on Day of the Dead helps us grieve and celebrate the happy times we spent together.
Day of the Dead Sugar Skulls Honoring Our Pets
Sugar skulls have a unique significance in Day of the Dead celebrations. According to MexicanSugarSkull.com, “Sugar skulls represented a departed soul, had the name written on the forehead and was placed on the home ofrenda or gravestone to honor the return of a particular spirit. Sugar skull art reflects the folk art style of big happy smiles, colorful icing and sparkly tin and glittery adornments.”
To honor your departed pet(s), you and your family can craft or purchase sugar skulls with your pet’s name on them to place on the altar. MexicanSugarSkulls.com sells kits, some of which are edible, which is a great way to get kids involved in the celebration. We’ve also seen sugar skull crafts at major retailers like Michael’s and Target but purchasing sugar skulls directly from an BIPOC shop is the best way to adopt this tradition without supporting cultural appropriation.
If purchasing isn’t an option, drawing sugar skulls in honor of your pet is also a great way to get creative and celebratory. Plus, by drawing your sugar skull, you may even be able to make it in your pet’s likeness, which would be very special.
Day of the Dead Candles to Guide Departed Pets
To those who celebrate the Day of the Dead, lighting candles and incense can represent a way of guiding the spirits back to the world of the living for a day. It’s important to incorporate Day of the Dead candles and incense carefully because candles are a fire hazard and incense can be toxic to pets. When lighting real candles and incense, do so in an area where your pets, primarily cats, cannot access flames and smoke. And, consider doing so in an exterior portion of the house to ensure proper ventilation.
We love Memory Flame’s Memorial Candles because they are made with pets in mind. The candles, created by a fellow professional pet sitter, are a symbol of the individuals they are meant to honor. Their candles are crafted by hand in small batches using 100% premium natural soy wax and cotton wicks. They are available in both unscented and a light sandalwood scent. Memory Flame also released flameless candles this year, which are a great way to ensure their ultimate safety and enjoyment. These candles make great Day of the Dead, sympathy, and just because gifts.
Shoreline Happy Paws is Latina-Owned
As a proud Latina, I am delighted to take inspiration from this heartfelt holiday to share fun and memorable ways to celebrate our profound connection with our pets. Both in life and once they depart, our pets are family. Honoring them on Day of the Dead is a beautiful way to navigate the grief of their loss and remember the many ways in which they brought us endless joy and unconditional love.
Shoreline Happy Paws offers dog walking, pet sitting, and dog hiking adventures in the following areas of the Connecticut Shoreline:
- Old Saybrook
- Essex, Ivoryton & Centerbrook
- Deep River
- Old Lyme
- East Lyme
Certain Areas and Limited Service Hours in:
- Lyme and Madison
- Waterford, New London, Groton
- Uncasville, Gales Ferry, Mystic, Noank
We hope you enjoy remembering your pets on Day of the Dead!