Wednesday, December 6, 2023

What is the significance of the levels of the Day of the Dead

As we already know, the first days of November in Mexico will be marked by the Day of the Dead, a tradition in which tribute is paid to loved ones who rest in peace. The arrangements and tributes on these dates range from flags, papel picado and personal altars.

From the last days of October, the Day of the Dead celebrations take place throughout the Aztec nation, probably celebrated between the 31st of this month and November 2.

The Day of the Dead is a tradition recognized by UNESCO (Image: AFP)

For many, this day is used to honor our loved ones, friends, family and pets who have departed on another plane. Of course, far from a day of nostalgia or sadness, it is about awakening the best memories with the presence of that creature that is no longer with us.

One of the best tributes to our loved ones are altars, where the great affection felt by family members for the deceased can be seen. Did you know that each floor or level has a special Day of the Dead meaning?


It is worth specifying that on these dates the 7 levels of the Day of the Dead Altars are built, which have a special meaning for all Mexican families or those who live in the country of the taco.

Each floor or level symbolizes a step that each departed soul must take to find eternal peace. However, there are two or three levels offered.

In the same way, the two-level offerings can be understood as the division between heaven and earth, while the three-level offerings are interpreted as the road to heaven, which passes through the earth and begins underground.

Below, we present a more detailed list of the meaning of each level of altars:

First level

On this floor is the ground and a cross made of salt, flower petals to protect the altar, or usually put the ashes. This should be done in four cardinal points.

Second level

During the second stage, water is used to quench the thirst of the deceased on his way to eternal rest.

Third level

In the third level, food is offered, even to the dead, typical dishes or other tamales that the deceased loved to enjoy while alive. Such an honor is a way to remember your stay on this plane.

Portraits Of Women And Men Who Participated In The Battles Of The Independence Processes Of Mexico And Peru Crown The Altar Of The Museum.  (Photo: Gabriela Machuca)
Portraits of women and men who participated in the battles of the Independence processes of Mexico and Peru crown the altar of the museum. (Photo: Gabriela Machuca)

Fourth level

On this floor there are things that represent the wind, be it confetti or colored ribbons. It is worth saying that this element symbolizes the unity between the earthly world and the afterlife.

Fifth level

When we arrive at the floral space. This is where flowers such as marigolds are placed. It is usually given as a contribution to the beauty and fragrance of the altar.

Sixth level

Incense is placed in this room to purify the atmosphere and raise prayers to heaven.

Seventh level

The top of the altar is often decorated with an image of some saint, either the Virgin Mary or another religious icon, so that a blessing can be brought to the deceased.


The Day of the Dead altar represents the central part of the celebration and serves as a tribute offering to loved ones who have died. A basic part of this ritual is the lighting of candles or tapers.

Below, discover the meaning behind the lighting of the candles each day, from October 28 to November 2.

  • October 28: tradition indicates that on that day the souls come alone
  • October 29: Candle lit in honor of the forgotten and helpless dead.
  • October 30: A new candle is lit to help the souls who died in an accident.
  • October 31: an altar is built for the dead and candles are lit for children who died without baptism.
  • November 1: On All Saints’ Day the altar is dedicated to all the children who have died.
  • November 2: All Souls’ Day is dedicated to adults or elderly dead.
World Nation News Desk
World Nation News Desk
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