Here are some images of my ancestor altar for this year's Samhain celebration and for the Day of the Dead. I try always to use things that are very person-specific on it, objects that belonged to a loved one who has passed or items which speak very strongly to me of that person's character. I like to use loads of photographs too, sometimes using multiple different images of the same person, especially when it's someone who is still incredibly important to me, despite they're no longer being on this earthly plane. I also tend to use things in threes: candles, apples, pumpkins et al, as to me this represents the three stages of the life cycle: birth, death and rebirth.
This year's altar had big paper flowers to represent the powerful marigolds that are no longer available here in New England at this time of year, nine tarot cards chosen for this day and year, strands of orange fairy lights (I never did find a way to use those purple ones that were giving me fits a few weeks back), three candles in basic black as well as three of my favorite tri-color ones in black, orange and white, seven skulls (another magickal number) to represent the souls of all my loved ones and ancestors past, and three green apples for health, three pumpkins and small bundle of three strawberry corn cobs to represent the harvest of Samhain. My altar also had on it my beloved crow (he's fake but incredibly well done) who is always in the center of this particular altar to represent this sabbat's magick and mystery as well as to stand as a messenger from the realm of the spirits. And in honor of my full-blooded Native American ancestors I always have a small cup of ground cornmeal and a small cup of pure, organic loose tobacco. Those are then scattered on the earth afterwards as an offering to Grandmother Moon and Grandfather Sun.
As exciting as this sabbat is, there is also a certain sadness that lingers after it's all over for this year. There comes on the heels of the wonderful witch's celebration a feeling of sorrow, of wishing for loved ones passed, of the darkness that falls a bit earlier and earlier each night, of the death of the God and the harvest. It isn't particularly unpleasant, but it isn't exactly happy either, sort of like a restless feeling in one's soul. But this cycle of sorrow too will pass as we roll along towards the upcoming sabbats of the year, and this melancholy will be replaced with joy. Everything in balance and everything just as it should be.
Blessed be to all of you out there and the loved ones you are honoring this day.