Dios de los Muertos is a multi-day celebration, usually observed October 31 – Novemeber 2. Ofrendas are alters that honor the dead, a place where they are welcomed home and the center of the Day of the Dead celebration. Ofrendas can be big or small, fancy or simple – and they were everywhere in Oaxaca. Homes, shops, businesses, parks, museums – it seems everyone honors the dead with this special holiday.
Ofrendas are also filled with pots of flowers to guide the souls back home, favorite foods of the departed, bowls of water, chocolate, candles, tamales, mole, salt, mescal, rice, beans, pictures, coca-cola, fruit, pan de muerto, papel picado (cut paper) and sugar skulls. Personal items are often included. Another element that you often see is a tripod shaped copal incense holder. The tripod represents fire, smoke and earth. The smoke welcomes the souls back to earth and carries people's hopes and wishes to heaven to feed the gods.