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Creating your Altar

Make an Altar 

With Us!

Why marigolds? It is believed that the spirits of the dead visit the living during the celebration. Marigolds guide the spirits to their altars using their vibrant colors and scent. Marigolds, or flowers in general, also represent the fragility of life.





The altar is an essential component of Día de los Muertos. Altars with two levels represent Heaven and Earth. Altars with three levels represent Heaven, Purgatory and Earth. The most traditional altar has seven levels, which represent the levels the deceased must pass through in order to rest in peace.

As with most things in Mexico, there is great variation in the arrangement of the altar levels. Here's how they appear on the diagram (starting at the top):

  • Level 1: Image of Saint to whom the deceased is devoted;

  • Level 2: Intended for the Souls in Purgatory and that the Deceased might have permission to leave that place;

  • Level 3: Salt is placed to purify the Spirit of the Children from Purgatory and so the body is not corrupted on the journey;

  • Level 4: Pan de muerto, Bread of the Dead, is offered as nourishment for the Souls;

  • Level 5: Food and Fruit preferred by the Deceased;

  • Level 6: Photo of the Deceased to whom the altar is dedicated;

  • Level 7: A Cross fashioned of Seeds, Fruit, Ash or Lime; serves so Deceased may expiate his or her sins.

Community Altar

Not ready to commit to your own altar?  Bring your memories to life by adding to a community altar with framed copies of pictures of deceased loved ones and disposable items reminiscent of their favourite foods hobbies, and items they held dear. 

Altars are presented at

Shelton Park

Questions?  Contact Us by clicking here

**Not responsible for personal items

Altar Set-Up

Principal elements used in altars and their meanings:

  • Water: Water of Life is offered to Souls of the Dead to alleviate their thirst;

  • Candles: Candles and votive lights guide Souls to their old homes and illuminate their return to their ultimate abode;

  • Cut Paper: Represents the Wind and Festive Joy;

  • Flowers: Adorn the altar ...

  • Orange petals of marigolds, cempasúchil, form the path that guides the Souls;

  • White represents the Sky;

  • Yellow represents the Earth;

  • Purple represents mourning and cleanses the place of bad spirits.

  • Figure of Dog Xoloitzcuintle [Mexican Hairless]: Allows the Spirits of Children to feel content as they arrive at the banquet;

  • Woven Bed Mat, Petate: Serves as a bed or table so the Spirits may rest; 

  • Bread of Dead, Pan de Muertos: Its circular form represents the Cycle of Life and Death; it has four appendages in the form of a Cross that symbolize the Four Cardinal Directions;

  • Sugar Skulls: Allusion to the Death that is ever-present;

  • Drinks: Deceased Spirit's favorite beverages.

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