Dear Community Member,

We are excited to invite you to create an altar for San Rafael’s 35th annual Día de los Muertos celebration, known in English as the Day of the Dead. The traditional one-day in person event will be on Saturday, November 5 at the Albert J. Boro Community Center.

Altar creators will again be able to choose this year to: a) to build an altar to be viewed at the celebration on November 4 by approximately 2,000 attendees, b) to be paired with a Downtown San Rafael business and place an altar in their storefront window, c) Downtown businesses can chose to create their own altars in their windows and have their business included on our published altar lists for the public to view, or d) to build an altar at home and share photos with us.

The Día de los Muertos celebration comes from the ancient wisdom of the indigenous people of Meso and South America that through the years has been open to many spiritual influences of this ever-developing world and changing universe we live in. The multicultural community of the Canal Neighborhood hosts the celebration and welcomes residents and visitors to the City of San Rafael to share in a grateful acknowledgement of the continuing ebb and flow of existence in ways we do not understand.

To honor the diversity of the Canal Area, our celebrations have also included altars from other cultures and individuals or agencies who, although not Latinx, want to be included. We welcome everybody! We envision that this year, individuals may want to honor a friend or loved one they have lost, a cause, or possibly those who have died from COVID-19.

Included is an application and guidelines on how to create an altar. We hope you will help us celebrate this year.

For questions or additional information please contact Steve Mason at or (415)485-3079.

Thank you!

Steve Mason, Altar Committee Chair

Altar Guidelines


Pick a theme important to you. It may be “personal”, such as a lost loved one(s), which follows the Latin American tradition most closely. You may pick a hero(s)/heroine(s). You may also choose to have your theme honor victims of a historic or current event, such as an issue of social justice or COVID. Try to personalize it with authentic photographs, etc. Viewers can identify with real people better than with an abstract cause.

Objects to Include

Marigold flowers, photos (preferably framed), Day of the Dead bread (available at local Mexican stores), food (think colorful Fall fruits and vegetables), water, unlit candles, tablecloth, Day of the Dead decorations, artwork, smiling skulls, anything the deceased may need or like in the afterlife, objects that the deceased loved or used in the real world, a small sign with the altar’s dedication.

Objects NOT to include

Candy, literature or other hand-outs. Keep in mind that viewers, especially children, are discouraged from touching any objects on the altars. Halloween objects are not appropriate. Note that Day of the Dead skulls are not scary; they are colorful and smiling. Please do not include anything irreplaceable, as we cannot guarantee its safety.


In Businesses and Home

For those who choose to have their altar displayed in various San Rafael businesses, you will be paired with a participating business and provided their contact information. If you will be preparing an altar in your own business, please let us know so that we can include you on our list for the public to see. If you create an altar in your home, please let us know and send us photos so we can share on our social media pages. Ideally, you will have all of the supplies you need, including a small table. No tacks or pins are allowed. Altars will be available for public viewing so please do not include something valuable. Please be respectful of the altar hosts (businesses) and do not bring anything too messy or that needs maintenance.

Set-Up Date

Saturday, October 1, 2023 – Saturday, November 4, 2023. Altars are permitted to be on display for a shorter amount of time with preapproval. Downtown altars must be on display at least by Saturday, October 21st during the Día de los Muertos Downtown Car Procession. Please bring your own supplies, (no tacks or pins are allowed).

At Event

You may construct your altar on a table (we have a limited number of card tables and 6-foot tables available on a first-come, first serve basis). Or, we encourage you to be creative and construct your altar out of boxes, wood, bamboo, furniture, or other media. Think of a gravesite or family home. Layering with different levels, such as with boxes, and colorful fabrics, is very effective. You will have all adjoining wall and floor space which you should include in your design. “Blue tape” is the only way permitted to attach items to the wall. Please bring your own blue tape.


Saturday, November 4, 2023 from 9:00AM through 2:00PM. All altars must be completed by 2PM! Please bring your own supplies, (no tacks or pins allowed). Altars will remain up for the community event only. Altars are to be deconstructed the following Monday, November 6th between 9:00AM and 6:00PM. Altars may not be taken down the evening of the event. Remember that the altars will be available for public viewing so please do not include something valuable.

Please complete and return the altar application to reserve your space.