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Day of the Dead

by Elena on November 3, 2009

Day of Dead SkullsWhile it may appear that celebrants of the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) are mocking the dead, with all the over the top colors, sugar skulls and dancing skeletons, but in reality the tradition is meant to honor those who have passed.  It isn’t a sad occasion, but rather playful, because displaying these caricatures of the dead, known as calaveras, lessen the fear and sadness of death.  Rather than feel sadness, participants celebrate and remember their loved ones by offering their favorite food and drink.  Check out these pictures of Day of the Dead celebrations from all over the world.

Day of the Dead SkeletonThis day coincides with the Catholic holiday All Saint’s Day on November 1st, the day after Halloween, however Dia de los Muertos lasts two days.  The Day of the Dead dates back to the pre-Hispanic era, when the Aztecs would honor the goddess of death.  The rituals have lasted and evolved with time, and the importance has remained.  The Catholic Church was at first vehemently against such a holiday, however realizing they couldn’t deter its following, they moved it to All Saints/Souls Day in hopes of amalgamating both traditions.  Throughout Mexico, and parts of the United States, the Day of the Dead is widely popular and a very important part of their culture.Day of the Dead food offeringsSugar skulls another important part of the ritual.  Usually you will see them with the name of the person deceased on the top of the skull.  These skulls are given as offerings and later eaten by friends and family.  It is an interesting dichotomy between the sweetness of life and sugar versus the sadness off death and skulls.  You can see these sugar skulls at every alter and Day of the Dead celebration.  Many people take the time to decorate them together, further cementing the importance of gathering as a family.

Mexican Sugar Skull is a site completely devoted to these sugar creations for Day of the Dead.  They have a step by step guide and recipe on how to make them yourself.  You can make them with egg white or meringue powder, depending on which recipe you choose.  A writer for the Baltimore Sun posted a slightly easier recipe to follow.  Not all of us have meringue powder lying around.

Sugar Skulls
Makes 50 small skulls

2 egg whites
1 tablespoons pure honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups granulated sugar

Sugar Skulls

The beauty of the celebrations are accentuated by the bright orange marigolds that are used to decorate the alters.  Local markets are colored orange and red with thousands of blossoms decorating the squares.  Known as the flower of the dead, the marigold was used by the Aztecs as offerings to the dead.  These flowers are said to attract the dead to the offerings.

Day of the Dead - Marigolds and Markets

Day of the Dead Marigolds and Makets 2


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