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Day of the Dead

disneylandayofthedead2

Did you know that today is Day of the Dead or Dia de Los Muertos?! It’s a fascinating holiday celebrated in central and southern Mexico on November 1 & 2 to honour deceased loved ones. Depending on which sources you read it can be related to or completely different from Halloween and how it is celebrated. If one thing is certain however it’s that Day of the Dead is about remembering and celebrating lost loved ones which is one of the reasons I love it.

During the 3-day long festival families welcome back the souls of their deceased relatives for a brief reunion that includes food, drink and celebration. The holiday is celebrated each year from October 31 – November 2. While October 31 is Halloween, November 1 is “el Dia de los Inocentes,” or the day of the children and All Saints Day. November 2 is All Souls Day or the Day of the Dead. According to tradition, the gates of heaven open at midnight each day and the spirits can return to their families for 24 hours.

The festival is so important that in 2008 UNESCO added Mexico’s “Indigenous festivity dedicated to the dead” to its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

One of the most iconic and colourful items seen during the festivities is the sugar skull or Calavera. These skulls of all sizes are traditionally made of sugar and are decorated with icing to be fun and colourful. Some even have feathers, glitter, hats, or other objects attached to make them more personal.

Harry Potter sugar skulls
Sugar skulls at Disneyland

One of the most iconic and colourful items seen during the festivities is the sugar skull or calavera. These skulls of all sizes are traditionally made of sugar and are decorated with icing to be fun and colourful. Some even have feathers, glitter, hats, or other objects attached to make them more personal.

As you may remember from previous blogs I’m captivated by different cultures and my first degree is in archaeology and ancient history. I am particularly fascinated with the way different cultures, present and past, use skulls as a memorial item (such as calavera) as a way of remembering them. I have lost 2 close family members and I see this as a lovely way of remembering them.

Sugar skulls can be eaten, but their main function is to adorn the altars and tombs as a sugary delight for visiting spirits. They represent a departed soul and often have names written on their foreheads and are placed on the home “ofrenda” or gravestone to honour the return of that particular spirit. Also included on these altars are candles, food, photographs of lost loved ones and Mexican marigolds, known as cempasuchile.

dayofthedeaoffrenda
My Day of the Dead Ofrenda

Sugar skulls are meant to capture the joy and happy memories associated with lost loved ones which is why I am particularly fond of them. People also have their faces painted to look like a sugar skull to celebrate the holiday just like I did in 2017!

Also in 2017, Disney and Pixar released the blockbuster animated hit Coco, a stunningly illustrated homage to the Mexican tradition. Coco is a young boy who is transported to the Land of the Dead and in turn meets up with his long-lost ancestors. I you haven’t seen it I would definitely recommend it.

sugarskullme

Along with sugar skulls, one of the things I love most about Day of the Dead is that it’s an occasion for remembering and celebrating those who have passed on while at the same time portraying death in a more positive light, as a natural part of the human experience.

I hope to feature more about this fascinating festival in future blog posts and jewellery items. In the meantime why not check out my current sugar skull collection!

Getting a sugar skull tattoo at Disneyland
sugarskulltattoo

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sugarskullme

Hi, I'm Sam

Hi! I’m Sam Self and I am the creator and passion behind Rock & Rose Jewellery. Inspired by Mexican sugar skulls and Victorian memento mori, my jewellery designs are also motivated by a personal desire to create pieces for people who want a little touch of the gothic with their everyday outfits.

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