Sugar skulls or candy skulls have become extremely popular in both modern fashion and jewellery. They have been featured in many Hollywood films but most notably in the James Bond movie Spectre.
In the opening scenes of the move Daniel Craig is walking through a Day of the Dead parade in Mexico City. This inspired Mexico City to hold its first Day of the Dead parade in 2016.
So, are sugar skulls considered evil? Sugar skulls are used to commemorate the dead. They have been used for many years since the Aztec time, where they are made from different types of sugar and placed on altars. They are used for remembering those who are no longer with them and are not considered evil.
There is a rich history behind the Day of the Dead holiday and sugar skulls are one of the most important symbols. Let’s dive into what sugar skulls symbolize, how they are used, and even how you can make them yourself.
The Spanish word for Day of the Dead is Día de Muertosand is a holiday celebrated throughout Mexico. Family and friends come together over two days to pray and remember their loved ones who have died. The prayers are offered to support them on their spiritual journey.
Mexican people believe their dead loves ones are still with them. So rather than mourn their loss they prefer to celebrate and commemorate their life. Day of the Dead is a public holiday in Mexican culture and has been celebrated for hundreds of years.
According to historians it was originally celebrated in the summer months around August. The holiday kept getting pushed back into the fall months, for unknown reasons, until it finally coincided with the Christian holiday All Saints Eve. It is now celebrated on November 1st and 2nd of the year.
People will build small altars in their homes which are called ofrendas. They place local flowers, food, and other meaningful items on the altars. They usually have a photo of the person on the altar.
Examples are a table placed in the living room. A cloth is placed over the table with a photo of the person in the middle. Food and flowers, typically marigolds, are placed around the photo and prayers are performed.
Children and adults dress up as skeletons with characteristic sugar skull face painting. Edible sugar skulls are also made for children to eat. They will also go to the cemetery and apply the same offerings and tend to the gravesite.
They were first used in the 17th century by Italian missionaries visiting Mexico. Sugar was very abundant and affordable during that time, so they used it together with clay to make decorative skulls
In ancient times the Aztecs would celebrate the dead for months at a time by honoring the goddess of the underworld. Now people dress up with white face paint, elaborate costumes, a variety of dances and most recently a parade in Mexico City.
The northern part of Mexico did not celebrate the Day of the Dead historically. They had differing beliefs and holidays. Most recently Day of the Dead has become far more popular in the northern regions as well and is now widely celebrated.
Sugar skulls are also referred to as candy skulls, la calavera and calaveras. They are most often made with icing sugar and other flavouring coupled with food dye to create beautiful and elaborate designs. Bakeries and street vendors will sell these delicious treats to both children and adults alike.
Sugar skull makeup is worn by people on the Day of the Dead and usually has a white undercoat. There are normally teeth drawn out with the eyes darkened so that their face looks like a skull. This style of makeup is extremely popular in mainstream culture especially during Halloween.
Thinking about doing your own sugar skull makeup? I would suggest watching several online tutorials on YouTube, there is tons, but here are a few helpful tips to get you started. You will need the following items:
Basic step by step application:
1. Preparing your face - Clean any makeup from your face. Wash your face with water and dry it. Once this is done use the blush brush or eyeshadow brush to apply the white makeup or white shimmer powder all over your face. You can also apply it to your neck.
2. Make the eye holes - Use two different bright eyeshadow colors for this step. Apply a base coat to around the eye. It should be as large or a small as you wish. You are trying to make it look like the eye socket of a skull. Then apply the other color to the corners of your eyes closest to the nose. Use your judgement on what looks good.
3. Decoration final details – you’ll be using eye liner for this step.
This can be a fun activity do share with your children, but you will need sugar skull or regular skull moulds. Skull ice cube moulds also work well for this.
The recipe and instructions below will make you one sugar skull that is about half the size of a large pear. You will need to adjust the recipe to accommodate larger moulds.
Get a separate bowl for the icing. Put in about a cup of icing sugar and a few drops of vanilla essence. Separate out portions into cups (disposable are best). Add different food dye to each container to get a few different colors. Use a paintbrush or a pen shaped object to apply the icing on the skulls to decorate them.
What do sugar skulls symbolize? Sugar skulls are a reminder of the cyclicality of life and are made to celebrate the life of lost loved ones. These skulls symbolize every man, women and child no matter age or gender, death comes to all. Larger skulls are made for adults while smaller ones are made for children.
What happens to the food after day of the dead? The food that doesn’t spoil gets eaten. The food and offering aren’t really thought of as given to the dead, but prepared so they will visit, have a good time, and then go back to Mictlan. Guests will often eat the leftovers, but if the complex dishes need refrigeration, the food of the ofrenda usually gets put into the garbage.