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Today is Day of the Dead and in cities all over Mexico families are going to cemeteries to visit their loved-ones who have passed. In Mexico, many believe that on this day our dearly departed return from the world of the dead to be with, and comfort, our families. That’s why families place Altars for the Dead, a fundamental element of the celebration, to make offerings both physical, like food and water, and spiritual, like rosaries, candles, and religious images, for our loved-ones to use.
Altars for the Dead have been built since prehispanic times and there are various types, some purely prehispanic with symbols depending on one’s ancestry, for example, from the Aztec, Totonacas, Mixtec, just to name a very few…
…or the altars are a combination of traditions with both symbols from Prehispanic Indigenous cultures and from Christian culture. They often include multiple levels, the most common are two levels (representing Heaven and Earth), three levels (representing Heaven, Purgatory, and Earth) or seven levels (symbolizing the seven steps necessary to reach heaven), this last is considered by many to be the ultimate, complete altar and includes the following steps, one for each level:
The first step : An image of a Saint to whom the departed loved-one was particularly devoted
The second step: An image of souls in purgatory.
The third step: Salt (for purification)
The fourth step: Bread
The fifth step: Foods and favorite fruits of the loved-one
The sixth step: Photographs of the loved-one
The seventh step: A cross, or rosary, made from either seeds or fruit like tecojote and lime
Among the traditional offerings can also be found water, candles, incense, floral arches, papel picado (rectangular bits of paper with different designs cut into them), flowers (especially the traditional orange or yellow cempazuchitl), skeletons, favorite drinks (tequila, beer, rompope and wine are common), and favorite objects of the departed, just to name a few.
Having said this, keep in mind that all types of altars are found as you shall see:
More Pictures on mamalatinatips Flickr Account.