Sugar Skulls – A Day of the Dead Tradition

This time of year, especially, we are completely smitten with the colorful Day of the Dead imagery, particularly sugar skulls! Day of the Dead is celebrated in many cultures throughout the world, but it is best known as a Mexican holiday celebrated on November 1st and 2nd.  The holiday is a time to pray for, remember and honor the deceased.

Typically, private altars to the deceased are constructed at home and decorated with photos, candles, sugar skulls (a type of candy), marigolds, small trinkets and favorite foods and drinks of the deceased.  It is believed that the spirits of the deceased eat the “essence” of the food, and that a living person who eats the food after the spirit has gotten to it will be safe, but will have gotten no nutritive value from it.

Paper Source’s Day of the Dead table last year

Some families will take favorite possessions of the deceased to the grave site and have a picnic, others dance and wear shells so that the noise they make will coax the spirits to revel with them. In cities, children dress up in costume and beg neighbors and passers-by for calaventa, a small gift of candy or money, much like children in the U.S. trick-or-treat on Halloween (we’ve got an excellent costume  idea!).

Skulls are the most popular symbol of the holiday and everything from bread to masks to chocolate and sugar candy (thus, “sugar skulls”) are made to look like one, with the name of the recipient (dead or alive) written across the forehead. 

Another note: Day of the Dead imagery is not just for the holiday itself; it’s considered very good luck to have a Day of the Dead tattoo or doll on your person at all times. With that in mind, it makes perfect sense to celebrate Day of the Dead throughout the holidays… or all year long with our Sugar Skulls Calendar!

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