Day of the Dead in Albuquerque New Mexico

Day of the Dead in Albuquerque New Mexico, how is it?

Should you find yourself in Albuquerque New Mexico in between Halloween and the early days of November you may see some peculiar sites.  Women in brightly colored, long flowing dresses with their faces painted like a skeleton dancing through the streets. Skulls crafted from sugar and painted to look more lively than a skull should ever hope to look.

Alters erected on the street and signs reading “Silence is Death” and “Reclamando Nuestra Querencia” in the style of street art.  It is the Day of the Dead in Albuquerque New Mexico.  Consider yourself lucky to be in this southwestern city of the United States at this particular time in the fall because Albuquerque hosts one of the most elaborate and culturally relevant celebrations of the Day of the Dead in the country.

Day of the Dead in Albuquerque New Mexico

Obviously, the Mexican contingent is alive, well and is represented in great numbers in the state of New Mexico and the Hispanic population goes in this southwestern city go to great lengths and take much pride in throwing one of the most elaborate and thrilling day of the dead celebrations in the country.

The main attraction is the day of the dead parade which is also known as the Marigold Parade.  If you catch a glimpse of this celebration you will see people of all ages marching through the main streets of Albuquerque holding up photographs of loved ones who have passed.

The spirit of the festival is to celebrate and reflect upon the cycle of life.  It is not to glorify death but to acknowledge it as a natural part of our human existence.  Día de los Muertos is also a very important time of the year for Hispanic people because it is the time to remember and celebrate the lives of loved ones.  During this festival, the spirits of passed loved ones are invited to be a part of the family unit once again.

Day of the Dead In Albuquerque New Mexico

Day of the Dead In Albuquerque New Mexico

Cultural Icon

The Day of the Dead in Albuquerque New Mexico moved beyond the traditional incarnations of the holiday (although the traditional rites and means of celebration are in no way done away with) to become something of a cultural icon.

People from all over the country descend on Albuquerque in the fall to witness this spectacle for themselves.  Local organizations have been formed and committees have been dedicated to funding, promoting and organizing the Day of the Dead in Albuquerque New Mexico.

Local artists are invited to submit their creations and compete to have their work featured on posters, t-shirts promotional items and in the parade itself.  There is a theme that is selected every year that range from political calls to action to reflective mottos on Hispanic culture to coincide with the traditional themes of the holiday.  Local musicians and bands perform for the crowd, playing contemporary songs and ones that hearken to the meaning of this holiday which is meant to be at once somber and lively.

The Día de los Muertos parade and celebration continues to be focused on community and culture. Hispanics are not the only ones in attendance either; people from all walks of life enjoy taking part of this important festival.  Día de los Muertos is a very unique time so should you be in Albuquerque around October 31st, be sure to take in all of the sites and participate in this rich cultural tradition.

Buy YOUR Day of the Dead Skull Coloring &
Sugar Skull Making eBook NOW

Buy NOW for $17.99

 

 

day-of-the-dead-skulls

Buy NOW for $17.99

 

And get immediate access to your 65-page How-to-Guide to Celebrate and Teach El Dia de los Muertos with:
*26 unique 8 1/2″ x 11″ printable Day of the Dead skulls
*Sugar skull making instructions
*Complete lesson plans
All DONE, Just Download and Print. That’s all!

Using Papel Picado Banner for Your Day of the Dead

Mexican folk art is filled with vibrant colors, and one of the best examples is papel picado (cut paper). The idea is to hung papel picado banners to wave in the breeze and you can use this handmade art form to celebrate important personal events such as weddings, quinceañeras, baptisms, as well as holidays such as Easter and Christmas.

Outside of Mexico, it is perhaps most associated with the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) where it plays a prominent role in decorations.

History of the Papel Picado Banner

Papel picado banners add a festive Latin touch to your celebration.

Papel picado banners add a festive Latin touch to your celebration.

The papel picado history goes back to both the Aztecs and ancient China. Before the arrival of the Spanish in Mexico, the Aztecs traditionally created a paper called amatl, which they then cut with stone knives. These images were generally religious, featuring Aztec deities.

With the arrival of the Spanish came the inclusion of Mexico in international trade routes. One good which arrived was tissue paper, called papel china (Chinese paper) due to its origins. This new, fine paper was soon incorporated into the Mexican folk art tradition as papel picado.

Papel Picado Technique

Creating traditional papel picado is a technical, time-consuming process that requires special tools, lots of experience, and a steady hand, not to mention a great deal of patience. The entire process can take 30 or more hours for one set of 40 pieces of papel picado.

The first step is to draw a pattern, focusing not only on design but also on physics: it has to be able to support itself once the paper has been cut away. Next, the pattern is placed on a stack of tissue paper, which sits on top of a thick lead platform.

The next step is to cut away the pattern using a series of specially made, sharpened chisels, each of a different size and shape. Once the negative space has been removed completely, the papel picado is complete.

Make Your Own Papel Picado Banner

Papel picado is a great addition to any Day of the Dead party, and it’s also a lot of fun for kids to try as a craft.

Since most of us don’t have specialized chisels at home, scissors will have to do. There are a number of different ways to create a home version of papel picado, but this is my favorite because it creates a series of squares, much like papel picado artisans create. Thanks to HappyThought.co.uk for the video and instructions.

Materials:
Printed pattern templates
Colored tissue or crepe paper in several colors, cut to letter size
Scissors
Masking tape

Instructions:
1. Fold template in half, with drawing on the outside.
2. Take 4-5 pieces of paper and fold them in half.
3. Assemble them like a book, with template on the outside. Tape the top so it won’t move.
4. Cut through the outside of the template.
5. Cut out the rest of the template. Continue to fold the “book” to access the inside shapes.
6. Unfold, remove tape, and flatten out the sheets.
7. Make your banner: Lay tape sticky-side up. Place sheets on half of the tape. Fold over to seal.

And lastly: Hang your papel picado banner over your Day of the Dead altar!

Want to know more? Hispanic Culture Online is one of the Web’s best resources on the Day of the Dead. Check out our archives here.

How do you plan to celebrate Day of the Dead? Tell us in the comments!

Day of the Dead in El Salvador

Most Latin American countries celebrate El Día de los Muertos or the Day of the Dead.  Each country has its own traditions. Day of the Dead in El Salvador, also known as the Day of the Faithful Departed (Día de los Fieles Difuntos), has an especially painful difference from the celebration in other parts of Latin America.

Day of the Dead in El Salvador

In 1980s, much of Central America was embroiled in civil war, and El Salvador was no exception. During the revolution, some 75,000 people were killed or disappeared. Of those whose bodies were found, many are in mass graves.

Others have been located but are still to be reburied. As such, November 2 has a much more somber meaning in El Salvador. For a culture that honors its dead, it brings great sorrow to be unable to visit them in their final resting place on this important day.

Honoring Those Lost in the Civil War

Monumento a la Memoria y la Verdad, a common gathering place on the Day of the Dead in El Salvador.

Monumento a la Memoria y la Verdad, a common gathering place on the Day of the Dead in El Salvador.

In honor of those lost and unrecovered in the war, there are monuments to the dead that attempt to give families a place to go on Day of the Dead in El Salvador. The most prominent example is the Monumento a la Memoria y la Verdad (Monument to Memory and Truth) in San Salvador.

Much like the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., the Monumento lists the name of known victims of the violence, and it is heavily visited on the Day of the Dead by families who leave flowers and candles at its base.

The date has also become an important one for organizations working on behalf for victims of the civil war. By commemorating those lost through vigils and religious ceremonies, they continue to advocate for reparations and legislation, as well for more information about the whereabouts of victims.

La Calabuiza

A more joyful aspect of Day of the Dead in El Salvador dates to much before the 1980s – in fact, it was celebrated even before the arrival of the Spanish in Latin America. It’s called La Calabiuza, and in El Salvador, it is one of the reasons that Halloween has yet to make as big of impact on its culture as it has in other parts of the world.

La Calabiuza is Held in Tonacetepeque, north of San Salvador where this festival turns November 1 into a celebration of the popular culture of El Salvador.

From the word “skull” in the language of the local indigenous people, the La Calabiuza festival was able to hold its own for centuries, even with the pressure from Spanish colonists to convert to their own traditions.

Revelers, mostly young people, dress as characters from Salvadoran legends and myths, as well as skeletons and other painted characters.

Examples of characters include La Siguanaba, a beautiful woman who abandons her son and is then cursed, and El Cipitío, her son, who wears a pointy hat. You’ll also see La Llorona, the crying woman common throughout Latin American legends, and the frightening Central American mythical creature El Cadejo.

With the upheavals of the civil war, people abandoned the tradition of La Calabiuza. But after its end, community leaders did their best to bring it back, in part to pre-empt the import of Halloween.

Nowadays, the festival has modern touches such as a costume contest, food stalls, and a dance.

Both the vibrant La Calabiuza and more emotional Day of the Dead traditions are part of El Salvador’s culture of respect for those that came before them and fit squarely into the Hispanic tradition of Day of the Dead.

Want to know more? Hispanic Culture Online is one of the Web’s best resources on the Day of the Dead. Check out our archives here.

Does your family celebrate Day of the Dead? Tell us in the comments.

El Día de Los Angelitos in Mexico

El Día de Los Angelitos in Mexico us tied to Mexico’s most famous holiday tradition—and my personal favorite—Day of the Dead.

Unlike American Halloween, which focuses on one night of doom, gloom, and gore, the Day of the Dead celebrates life, while also accepting the reality of death and providing the hope of a continued communion with our loved ones even after death.

We know the first day of the celebration as el día del los angelitos, and it provides a special time to remember loved ones who passed away as children.

What Happens on the Day of the Little Angels or Día de los Angelitos in Mexico?

Día de los Angelitos in Mexico

At midnight on October 31, the souls of the departed begin making their way back to their families for a visit. The first souls to arrive are the little children, called Los Angelitos or Los Inocentes.

The candles and offerings set up on special altars guide home The little children’s souls who find their loved ones and spend all day November 1 visiting with them. On the following day, the souls of adult loved ones arrive.

The Day of the Dead celebration traces its roots back to the beliefs of Mexico’s most famous indigenous people, the Aztecs. In their day, families spent an entire month celebrating and honoring their dead.

The festivities included a special feast in honor of deceased children, who they believed had gone to one of the many Aztec heavens where a tree fed them with milk. Following the Conquista, this Aztec celebration got compressed into the two-day affair we have now.

What You Need to Celebrate El Día de Los Angelitos at Home

Día de los Angelitos in Mexico

In Mexico and in the US, Hispanic-American families celebrate el día de los angelitos by visiting cemeteries to tidy and decorate their loved ones’ graves.

Often, many families get together for a candlelit procession to the cemetery on the night before the day of the little angels, and in some cities the display becomes truly magical. The best example is Arizona where the Day of the Dead is highly celebrated. Tucson’s “All Souls Procession,” is a wonderful display that is a favorite from 1990. The procession includes prayer and the entire walk to the cemetery.

Families also set up their own altars at home to welcome the spirits of their loved ones and celebrate their lives. If you would like to celebrate at home with your own altar, be sure to include the following elements:

Candles: The candles serve to light the way to the altar so that the angelitos can find their homes.
Water: Ideally this should be holy water, which will help the soul travel the path to eternity.
Incense: In Mexico, copal incense burns on Day of the Dead altars, a tradition with both Aztec and Catholic origins.
Sugar Skulls: These represent the members of the family, so each sugar skull should have someone’s name on it.  You can make them or buy them.
Marigolds: The scent of marigolds also helps guide the dead to the altar. Traditionally, people pluck out the petals to decorate the altar, sometimes creating a path of petals leading to the altar if there is room.
Food & Drink: The angelitos will need some refreshment after their long journey, so put out some of their favorite foods. You would see foods like mole, tamales, and oranges on a Mexican family’s altar. Adult spirits like tequila, but for child spirits milk or water would be more appropriate.
Salt: Some spirits may not be able to taste the food offerings, so give them salt instead.
Toys: When the angelitos come visiting, you want to have their favorite toys or else items representing their favorite activities on the altar for them to enjoy.
Photos: Photos of the lost loved ones help the living to remember and honor them.

With these elements you are ready to celebrate your Día de Los Angelitos here like a Día de los Angelitos in Mexico.

It is very important to share the roots and history of the Day of the Dead with your children as they can misinterpret its true meaning of reverence for the departed ones as well as the different view Hispanic-Americans can have of death.

It is fun to make your altar.   In my article Day of the Dead Altar you can find all the elements necessary to make a truly beautiful one.  Making a beautiful celebration en familia with your little ones is easy. They will always remember it and own it as part of their Hispanic culture.

This is one of the best holidays to have fun Hispanic style. Crafts, decorations and traditions all come alive during El Dia de los Muertos!

I started celebrating this holiday after my son was born. Honestly, I want to keep him close to his Latino roots.

Then, many people started asking me about this holiday, so I created this 65-page Dia de los Muertos skull coloring and sugar skull making guide.

  • It includes a complete background of the holiday, and a separate section for the meaning of calacas and skulls in Day of the Dead and their purpose in the altars.
  • This is not only for teachers! I created this eBook because I knew many moms like me, love to create projects at home like we do. This is for parents and teachers (complete lesson plans for children K+).
  • This is my favorite part of the book: 26 UNIQUE Day of the Dead black and white friendly printable skull designs that you won’t find anywhere. They are standard 8.5″ x 11″ paper, but you can print them ANY size you want!
  • Step-by-step guide of how-to make sugar skulls WITH original pictures and tips to follow the process easily.

Buy YOUR Day of the Dead Skull Coloring &
Sugar Skull Making eBook NOW

Buy NOW for $17.99

 

day-of-the-dead-skulls

And get immediate access to your 65-page How-to-Guide to Celebrate and Teach El Dia de los Muertos with:
*26 unique 8 1/2″ x 11″ printable Day of the Dead skulls
*Sugar skull making instructions
*Complete lesson plans
All DONE, Just Download and Print. That’s all!

Buy YOUR Day of the Dead Skull Coloring &
Sugar Skull Making eBook NOW

 Buy NOW for $17.99

Day of the Dead Masks

Day of the Dead masks for Halloween?  Humm…Every October 1, my sister-in-law gets really excited because it’s finally October and therefore socially acceptable to begin decorating for her favorite holiday, Halloween.

She’s such a creative person, I can’t help but wonder what might happen if she decided to celebrate All Saint’s Day and All Hallow’s Eve Mexican-style with Day of the Dead masks, candy skulls, ofrenda altars, papel picado, and mounds of fresh marigolds.

While Halloween may have a greater variety of decoration themes, el día de los muertos definitely offers more chances for creativity.  Unlike Halloween decorations, which are typically store-bought and reused from year to year, decorations for the Day of the Dead are more often handmade and we only re-use a few specific types of decorations like catrinas or Calaveras.

Other decorations, like marigold flowers, paper banners, and sugar skulls, for example, are left out in the cemeteries or on outdoor altars after the holiday is over, where they slowly drift away in the wind and melt in the rain until nothing is left.

Day of the Dead masks

This helps reinforce one of the primary messages of the holiday: life is short and everyone/everything passes away.  The need to make new decorations for the Day of the Dead each year also gives families a chance to sit down together and remember loved ones that have passed away.

Day of the Dead masks

Besides setting up the altar with the different types of ofrendas or food offerings for the spirits of the dead to eat, the family also must make sugar skulls with the dead relatives’ names on them, to help the spirits find the right altar.

Most people dress up like a skeleton, which is the most popular symbol of the Day of the Dead, but dressing as the devil is also common. Either way, the mask has a specific function and it is to help scare the spirits of the dead away from their altars at the end of the holiday.

How Are Day of The Dead Masks?

Among the more optional Day of the Dead crafts is making Day of the Dead masks or máscaras del día de los muertos for the living to wear.  Many communities have parties with music and costumed dancing on the Day of the Dead.

Day of the Dead masks are traditionally handmade out of wood or paper-mache, but nowadays you can also buy premade masks that might be latex or paper.
Some people think that the move towards premade masks shows that this part of the Day of the Dead is becoming more commercial, like the American Halloween.

Day of the Dead maybe becoming more commercial hoverer,  this doesn’t apply to the spirit of the holiday. Unlike American Halloween, which seems to be about death and darkness, Mexican Day of the Dead is really about celebrating family.

During the holiday people honor their dead relatives in an effort to stay connected to them, and to understand that while death comes for everyone eventually, you should never fear it. We could all learn a lot from this attitude of Mexican Day of the Dead!

Pixar and the New Day of the Dead Movie Controversy

Day of the Dead Disney Pixar Movie

Day of the Dead Disney Pixar Movie

One of my favorite Hispanic holidays, el Día de Los Muertos, is coming up soon! Already we’re seeing decorations on sale in stores and creative ideas in magazines. Ever since Pixar announced they plan to create a movie based on this holiday, I’ve been both excited and a little apprehensive.

I look forward to seeing the art in a Pixar and Day of the Dead movie, but will Pixar really understand how to portray this important Hispanic holiday in a respectful way? The fact that Disney, Pixar’s parent company, has tried to trademark “Día de Los Muertos” makes me wonder.

What Disney Tried to Do

Disney announced the idea of a Pixar and Day of the Dead movie in 2012, and in May of 2013 reporters discovered that Disney had actually filed 10 applications to trademark the phrase “Día de Los Muertos” for various purposes.

Mainly Disney wanted to make sure that if they used this phrase as the title of their movie, they would be the only ones able to create official movie merchandise with the same name. Disney’s trademark applications would have given them the exclusive right to use “Día de Los Muertos” on products from toys, games, and fruit snacks to clothing, backpacks, and jewelry.

When I learned about these many attempts to trademark the phrase I felt upset and the first thing that came to mind is how Disney tries to commercialize every single thing they put their hands on however, trying to trademark the phrase that has been used for years about this important holidays for Latinos and Hispanic Americans did not sit well with me.

I started questioning many Latinos I know and asking how they felt about Disney’s attempt to trademark and use the phrase “El Dia de Los Muertos” and the answer was the same, and it was not a pretty one!

Is it Possible to Trademark a Holiday?

Sadly, it is in fact possible to trademark the name of a holiday for commercial purposes. While the trademark does not prevent anyone from referencing the holiday in a general way, it does prohibit the use of the holiday name on whatever types of products are covered in the trademark. The US Trademark & Patent office has granted applications to trademark phrases related to Christmas and Hanukah in the past.

The Good News: Why Disney Withdrew the Trademark Application

Disney probably had several reasons for withdrawing their application to trademark “Día de Los Muertos,” though they are not necessarily admitting it. According to an official statement regarding Disney and the Day of the Dead movie, Disney decided not to use “Día de Los Muertos” as the title of their movie. Therefore they no longer needed to trademark this phrase to protect their movie and related merchandise.

What that official statement conveniently forgets to mention is that a huge public outcry followed the announcement of Disney’s trademark attempt. Many Latinos objected to Disney’s attempt to take over an important religious and cultural celebration. The fact that the meaning of the Day of the Dead is closely tied to our relationship to lost loved ones made this issue especially sensitive. It seemed very disrespectful of Disney to try to profit off of a holiday that celebrates the dead.

Hispanic populations in the US continue to grow, and we’ve already seen Disney make efforts to appeal to Latino kids by creating a Latina Disney Princess (though this effort failed miserably). If Disney’s intention in creating a Pixar and Day of the Dead movie was to court Latinos, they certainly made a wise decision to respect Latinos’ views by withdrawing the trademark application.

I would love to hear your opinion about this matter, feel free to share your comments!

3 Reasons for Using Day of the Dead Skulls

Day of the Dead Sugar Skull I Made - Ready to Decorate

Day of the Dead Sugar Skull I Made – Ready to Decorate

If you’re squeamish about skulls and skeletons, don’t even think about trying to celebrate Day of the Dead the traditional way.  The truth is…You might be able to get away with decorating your Day of the Dead altar with just marigolds and photos, but without Day of the Dead skulls on your altar, just how are the spirits of your loved ones supposed to find their way home?

The tradition of Day of the Dead goes all the way back to pre-Columbian times, when indigenous peoples in Latin America spent a whole month honoring a goddess known as the “Lady of the Dead.”  Over the centuries, the “Lady of the Dead” tradition blended with Christian beliefs to create the Day of the Dead we know today.

El Día de los Muertos celebrations exist to commemorate the lives of our deceased loved ones, as well as to welcome their spirits back to the land of the living for a few hours. Believe it or not it is a complete party, far from being a sad and unpleasant one.

The spirits of little children return first, starting at midnight on Nov 1, followed by the rest of the spirits on Nov 2.

When the spirits arrive, they will be disoriented and hungry so the best way to help them is by setting up Day of the Dead altars. Altars therefore are very important part of the holiday.

3 Reasons for Using Day of the Dead Skulls

First, they serve as representations in the altar. A typical Day of the Dead altar contains ofrendas or food and drink offerings to refresh the spirits, plus piles of marigolds and decorations like photos, skeleton figurines, catrinas, and of course sugar skulls with the names of the deceased written on them.

Second, using Day of the Dead skulls help the spirits confirm that they have returned to the correct altar according to tradition. When we use the skulls we live our Hispanic heritage.

Third, sugar skulls make excellent gifts for the living during El Día de los Muertos because they are usually handmade and we decorate them with details about the person they are representing.

These skulls are a personal gift we took the time to make or decorate. They are valuable and in many families the sugar skulls are reused over and over each year.

Keep in mind, we make the skulls and use color icing to decorate, but you can buy premade skulls to decorate yourself. You can even buy completely finished ones to write a name on and stick on the altar.

Making Your Sugar Skulls

If you want to make sugar skulls, you will need some special supplies. For a complete list check my Mexican Sugar Skulls page.

If you want the brief version here it is. First of all, you will need to purchase a skull mold. These molds come in many different sizes, with the larger ones being more typical for altar skulls and the smaller ones for gifts.

You will also need to find some high quality meringue powder. Most cake supply shops sell a diluted meringue powder that works for icing but not for sugar skulls, so it’s best to get your meringue powder from a Mexican foods shop or here in my Mexican Sugar Skulls page.

The recipe for Day of the Dead skulls is really simple. For every cup of sugar you use, mix in one teaspoon of meringue powder and one teaspoon of water.

Blend the ingredients together until the mixture holds your fingerprints and doesn’t crumble. Pack it tightly into your skull molds, then immediately flip the molds over onto a piece of cardboard to release the skulls. Let the skulls dry overnight and then decorate!

Don’t Miss Out on Making and Using Day of the Dead Sugar Skulls the Easy Way!

Here is the guide I put together with the help of my son (in the pictures) to make perfect and simple calaveras del Día de Los Muertos or sugar skulls.

I am so sure you will be satisfied that I will give you a 30-days money back guarantee if you are not happy with this complete Day of the Dead Skull Coloring and Sugar Skull Making guide.

Buy YOUR Day of the Dead Skull Coloring &
Sugar Skull Making eBook NOW

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And get immediate access to your 65-page How-to-Guide to Celebrate and Teach El Dia de los Muertos with:
*26 unique 8 1/2″ x 11″ printable Day of the Dead skulls
*Sugar skull making instructions
*Complete lesson plans
All DONE, Just Download and Print. That’s all!

Note: The file is in Adobe PDF, 13.9 MB in size and can be printed as fast draft for the text pages. Print the images in high quality resolution to obtain top results on your Day of the Dead skulls.

Interested in offering this product to your audience at a 30% commission? Join our Affiliate Program!

Making Mexican Sugar Skulls

And Buying the Best Sugar Skull Molds

November 1st and 2nd is getting closer and…That means only one thing for us at home. Making Mexican sugar skulls.

For many years I only practiced the typical Halloween holiday but soon after I had our son, I decided to start looking into celebrating Day of the Dead.

I started teaching Spanish at Montessori and I wanted to start sharing El Día de los Muertos in my classroom with the little ones. If you want to know more about the history of the holiday visit my Day of the Dead History page.

One of the most fascinating parts of the holiday is the usage of calacas or skeletons and skulls. They are not sinister, sad or scary looking at all.

On the contrary, Day of the Dead skulls have an important role in the festivity. Let see how…

What Are Mexican Sugar Skulls?

Mexican Sugar Skulls

Sugar skulls are simply a treat you make of white sugar that comes from sugar cane. You make them mostly in one piece and without any color.

In some cases people add vanilla and paste food coloring to give them intense colors like pink. I love doing that because color makes the sugar skulls payful and children enjoy the process. So if you are a parent or teacher I recommend you add paste food coloring to the main sugar mix when making them.

To decorate according to the typical traditions you use color tinfoil and icing with lots of bright colors, again with paste food coloring NOT with normal food coloring because it won’t work. Trust me on this one.

The lines you use to decorate are zig zag, round ones and they should be around the eyes, mouth and forehead. The idea is to accentuate the concave parts of the skull.

Green, pink, blue, yellow and red are the main colors, but you can use any color you desire. On the forehead you write the name of the person you want to honor or the name of a friend you love to give the Day of the Dead skull as a joke.

Some people keep the sugar skulls for days as they can last for a year if you store them properly. Others instead, eat them besides enjoying them as a piece of decoration for the festivities.

To make sugar skulls today many people use chocolate, amaranth seeds and dry fruits instead of the typical white granulated sugar.

Mexican sugar skulls are a must have item in the altars. There are three sizes that you can place, one on each level of the altar. To know more about how to make your altar read my article about Day of the Dead Altar.

Sugar Skull Meaning

The truth is that for Mexicans and Mexican Americans skeletons and sugar skulls represent death in a good way. They also serve to remind us of how impermanent life is.

When I started to look into the tradition, I wanted to understand why they used skulls and skeletons to celebrate in such casual way. It all stems from the Mexican the belief about death.

Mexicans consider death a normal part of life, and this belief manifests itself in all aspects of popular and cultural life in Mexico. Look at it this way, it is better to have a great relationship and be friendly with the inevitable, in this case death.

Amongst Mexicans death is not frightening, this concept appeared amongst Mexicans when the conquistadores arrived. Making fun of death is very common, and you can see this in the creation of the small verses called calaveritas, which ridicule and make fun of people including the dead.

Some believe the use of skulls originated in the Tzomplantli Nahuatl or the wall where the indigenous people placed the skulls of the warriors they captured as offerings to the gods.

Choosing and Using Mexican Sugar Skull Mold

After making Mexican sugar skulls and trying several places to purchase them, I have pretty much learned the process and the places I should buy from.

Things to consider when buying sugar skull molds and decorations:

  •  The mold sizes are a bit smaller than you think. The original small size mold is tiny for little hands to decorate, it is 1 1/2″W x 1″D x 2″H. Therefore I don’t use small size molds for children who are 9 years or younger.
  •  The regular medium size molds are the best for children 5 to 9 years old. The skulls are 2″W x 1 1/2″D x 3″H which is an o.k. size for children to manipulate when they are taking out the molded sugar skull and decorating it. Even better is to choose the Oaxacan Medium Sugar Skulls Mold which is 3″W x 3 3/4″D x 4″H.
  •   The Large skulls are good for adults and teens who have good manual dexterity because this size skulls require scooping and handling with care. They need more time to dry, approximately 3 days in total and you cannot separate them from the mold after at least 6 hours of drying.
  •   Choosing the right size makes a huge difference. Also remember to wash the molds every 5 sugar skulls because they become sticky and the molded sugar skull won’t come out.
  •  For complete instructions on how to make Mexican sugar skulls, lesson plans for home or school and 26 magnificent and unique Day of the Dead designs to decorate, purchase my no hassle 30 day money back guarantee Day of the Dead Skull Coloring and Sugar Skull making e-book.

To know more about this holiday read how During Day of the Dead Mexico becomes the center of a festivity to honor the dead. In this article I included foods, meaning of the holiday, decorations you can use, and more.

 

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And get immediate access to your 65-page How-to-Guide to Celebrate and Teach El Dia de los Muertos with:

*26 unique 8 1/2″ x 11″ printable Day of the Dead skulls
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