Skulls like the one in my home, featured to the left, are often found on the altars, dedicated and decorated for relatives that have passed on into the next world. People also wear skull masks and other masks celebrating the dead in parades. The skull masks are called calavas. These are a few of the Day of the Dead masks my husband and I own. Reproduction masks are quite cheap, but masks actually used in ceremonies can be quite pricey depending on how old they are and how rare. They are not even supposed to be sold, but a lot of the people travel to Mexico and other poorer countries to buy them illegally after the festival. They are supposed to be destroyed after the festivals, but they end up in the tourist shops in New Mexico and other places. Usually, from what I have heard, people often sell them for a case of beer or less as the night wears on.
|Reproduction from Guatemala|
|Circa 1970s. From State of Durango. Possibly used in |
lizard fertility dance. Devils are considered clowns
or pranksters who give comic relief.
La Katrina is the Mexican female character of death, often portrayed in Victorian dress with flowers on her hat. She is synomymous with the marigolds, a strong smelling flower. It draws the dead to the graves to visit with their families. In San Miguel, Mexico, on the eve of the Day of the Dead, ladies dress in Victorian costumes and paint their faces with skulls, parading through the streets to hand out treats to children before attending charity balls.
La Katrina is often seen in Mexican art with El Baron de Cemetario, the Mexican version of the Voodoo Baron Samedi, a loa (god) of the dead. I own this piece of artwork depicting La Katrina and El Baron.
Recipe for Sugar Skulls
- 2½ cups sugar
Egg white from 1 extra-large egg or 2 small eggs
1 teaspoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
Cornstarch, about a half-cup, for powdering surface
Sift sugar into a large mixing bowl. In another bowl, mix the egg whites, corn syrup, and vanilla.
Slowly pour the liquid into the powdered sugar. Mix with your hands until a sandy dough forms. Form dough into a ball. At this point, you can continue, or you can refrigerate dough for later use.
Lightly dust surface with cornstarch, as well as your hands. Pinch off a heaping tablespoon of dough, and shape it into a skull. If you're using them, lightly press colored sprinkles into the soft candy. Let the candy dry overnight.
When candy is dry, use the paint brush with food coloring to decorate the skulls. Or you can use frosting (one that will dry hard) with a fine tip to decorate them.
Hand them out as is, or wrap in a small cellophane bag tied closed with a small ribbon.
The skulls may not dry completely on a humid or rainy day.
The dough should be the consistency of damp sand, just moist enough to hold together. If the dough is too dry and crumbly, add 1 teaspoon of water at a time to moisten.
If dough is too moist, add sugar 1 tablespoon at a time until dough is the right consistency.
If the candy has trouble drying completely, place in a 125 degree warm oven until dry.
More information on the customs for Dia de los Muertos can be found on these sites:
Pictures of Die de lost Muertos
Traditional recipes and other information
More Day of the Dead History in Mexico
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