It’s no secret really that I am OBSESSED with sugar skulls. You’ll find them splashed across my office, woven into my clothing, printed on my dining ware, and even permanently drawn in my skin.
They’re definitely not scary or macabre to me. I think they are absolutely beautiful, and I truly appreciate and take to heart the meaning behind them.
Honestly, sugar skulls are more than the appear. First off, just to make sure we’re on the same page, they’re not real human skulls. I’m not THAT weird. As the name suggest, they’re made with a sugar mixture that’s molded into the shape of a skull.
Secondly, they’re not just a cool decoration to use for Halloween. I mean, you can incorporate them into your theme if you’d like, but they’re really for Dia de los Muertos, aka Day of the Dead. While the two events both start on the 31st of October, they’re not exactly the same.
Actually, Day of the Dead is a Mexican celebration, for the most part at least, that honors the lives and deaths of loved ones. The holiday traditions date back to the Aztecs and tie in Catholic customs as well.
October 31st, or All Hallows’ Eve, kicks off the 3-day holiday. During this time, it’s believed that the veil between our world and the next is thin, allowing the deceased to cross over. Then, November 1st is a day to remember kids and Saints. Hence why it’s also known as the day of the children and All Saints Day. It all wraps up on November 2nd. The Day of the Dead, or All Souls Day, honor all who have passed away.
Over the holiday, people dress up in brightly colored costumes, make up and masks. There are numerous celebrations, prayers, parties, parades and feasts for those who have passed and those who are living.
Normally, altars are constructed in the home or at grave sites too. These are not only used to commemorate the dead but to feed them and quench their thirst once they’ve crossed through the veil! They hold pictures of the deceased, their favorite beverages and foods and even a sugar skull that represents them.
While I don’t celebrate the holiday, the idea behind it all resonates with me. I’m actually a very emotional and sentimental person, and I believe that every family member and friend who helped raise me is a part of me. I’m essentially a combination of all of those people, and I wouldn’t be who I am (or where I am) without them. And that right there, means more than I can even convey to you now. So, when I lose someone close to me, it hurts. As it does for everyone, I know.
I was in 8th grade when my great-grandma died. I cried for what seemed like ages because she meant so much to me. In memory of her, I got a sugar skull tattoo with pink roses for eyes (her favorite flower) and a cross right above the nose (because she was pretty religious as well) a couple years ago.
She was a strong woman who saw and endured much in her long life, both good and bad, and she contributed to my upbringing. While I know she wouldn’t be too happy about the tattoo…I wanted to remember her in my own way. I didn’t want to just focus on her death. I wanted to look back on her life too and celebrate those years I had with her. A sugar skull encapsulates just that. It represents the delicate balance between life and death.