RCA Theatre Company


Día de Muertos (or Day of the Dead) is a traditional Mexican celebration with its roots in Indigenous cosmology[1], predating the Spanish colonization of America. This festivity, usually celebrated at the end of October/early November, focuses on honouring people that have passed away, as it was believed their souls could return from the underworld.

To acknowledge their return, setting up an altar or an offering was key to welcoming their souls to spend some time with us. Through the altar, we honour them by providing their favourite food and drinks, as well as objects that they used when they were alive. However, there are some elements to consider while setting up an altar, like its size. An altar can have different levels: two symbolizing (from the bottom-up) the earth and heaven; three representing (from the bottom-up) purgatory, earth, and heaven; and the most traditional has seven levels, symbolizing the seven steps for a soul to get to heaven and rest in peace.

Some important elements to consider adding to a Día de Muertos altar are:

-Photo of the loved one to whom the altar is dedicated.

-Water: symbolizes life and serves to calm the thirst of the souls.

-Marigold flowers: represent the sun and guide the paths into the altar. 

-Candles: light to guide the path of the deceased to their old homes.

-Papel Picado: tissue paper with cut-out shapes; represents the wind.

-Pan de Muerto: a traditional pastry for the season; represents the cycle of life and its shape references the four coordinates.

The tradition varies from each region in Mexico, but the common dates of celebration are November 1 and 2, days which honour children and adults that have passed away, respectively.


[1]  A branch of astronomy that deals with the origin, structure, and space-time relationships of the universe. – merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cosmology