Friday, May 29, 2015

It's a crafty world: Dia de los muertos - the tradition of Mexican Sugar Skulls

By Marlen Parari

The Day of the Dead is celebrated in Mexico on the days of November 1st and 2nd. This celebration might seem unusual by the standards of most western societies, however it is not much different to the catholic holiday of All souls' & all saints' day. The Mexicans believe that the gates of heaven are opened on the midnight on October 31 and the spirits of all deceased children (angelitos / little angels) are allowed to reunite with their families for 24 hours. On November 2nd the spirits of the adults come down to earth to enjoy the festivities prepared for them.

The souls of the dead are welcomed by the creation of elaborate altars, decorated by candles, buckets of flowers, fruits, peanuts, tortillas, and big day of the dead breads called 'pan de muerto'. Toys and candles are left for the angelitos, while cigarettes and shots of mezcal are offered to the adult spirits. The families invest a lot of money and effort in the preparation of these altars, as they believe that happy spirits will provide protection, good luck, and wisdom to their families. 

One quirky byproduct of the Dia de los muertos tradition, are the sugar skulls that are considered the unofficial trademark of celebration and are found anywhere from the faces of people to the candy on the altars. Sugar art was brought to the New world by Italian missionaries on the 17th century. Mexico, abudant in sugar production and too poor to buy imported European church decorations, learned quickly how to make sugar art for their religious festivals.

Sugar skulls represented a departed soul, had the name written on the forehead and were placed on the home altar or gravestone to honor the return of a particular spirit. Sugar skull art reflects the folk art style of big happy smiles, colorful icing and sparkly tin and glittery adornments. Sugar skulls are labor intensive and made in very small batches in the homes of sugar skull makers. These wonderful artisans are disappearing as fabricated and imported candy skulls take their place. 

However macabre this combination of children's candy with death symbolizing figures may sound, to the Mexicans the Dia de los muertos is a celebration of life itself. It is a celebration for the lives of their deceased ancestors and loved ones. This is why this celebration is a positive and colorful one. Instead of dwelling on the death of a loved person, they celebrate the glorious life they had. 

And what a better way to honor life in its entirety than accepting death as a natural outcome and celebrating it with fancy colorful skull sweets? It's about peace, acknowledgement, and acceptance of what is. And accepting what is, is the best way to celebrate life.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...