Dias de los Muertos Sugar Skulls January 07 2014
There is something so intriguing and beguiling about the human skull. It conjures deep primal revulsion and yet one can not look away. In Mexico and other countries the skull and skeleton are central decorations to the celebration Dias de los Muertos, the Day of the the Dead. This three day celebration of family members and friends that have passed on is centuries old. It centers around the idea that the dead come back to visit us on November 1st so we might as well throw them a party.
During the three day celebration families will build ofrendas (offerings), or alters, at the gravesite and in the families’ homes. They are filled with the passed on person’s favorite candies as well as photos and memorabilia, candles, crosses, food and orange Mexican marigolds. The family will tell funny stories and share in the joy of knowing the person that is no longer with them. Graves will be cleaned and picnics had by it’s side. Dancing, drinking and storytelling will be enjoyed by all. The celebrations vary in tradition across Mexico, some wear shells so while they dance the noise will wake up the dead. Some leave out pillows and blankets so their loved ones can rest after their journey,
Sugar skulls are central to the Dias de los Muertos celebrations, much like Christmas trees are to the Holiday season. Figurines of full skeletons doing everyday tasks reminds us of our lost ones and what they did in life. It also hints at the idea that the dead are still active and enjoying earthly pleasures, a hope that we all have that the afterlife will be enjoyable.
Sugar skulls have become ubiquitous in cultures outside of Mexico and are steadily gaining popularity around the world. They have surpassed their traditional role in the Dias de los Muertos celebrations and can be found on all kinds of decorative items. People are drawn to them as they can be blank slates, telling stories the observer is giving them.
There is something so real and gritty and approachable about sugar skulls. They are playful but at their heart they remind of us of those we love who are no longer with us. They also hint at own mortality. With such a sad story to tell, they do it gently by reminding us that while life is brief, it is also fun.
My mosaic skulls have hopefully captured some of the joy of the celebration of Dias de los Muertos and I hope they bring as much joy to you as they did me while making them.