Sugar skulls history

all saints artist calavera calavera mexicana day of the dead dia de los muertos mexican skull mexican tradition mexico skull sugar skull sugar skull history

Who knows the history of sugar skulls?

It is a typical mexican tradition, but there is a little bit of Italy into sugar skulls even if it's a mexican thing! And I am italian too! So there is a connection between Mexico and Italy. We have almost the same flag and the history of those skulls. Let me talk about this story.

sugar skull mug

During the celebration of Dia de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead), sugar skulls are often used to decorate the ofrendas (offerings). Traditional sugar skulls are made from a granulated white sugar mixture that is pressed into special skull molds and  they are generally used for decorative purposes.

mexican altar

The day of the dead was an Aztec ritual that celebrated the lives of those who have deceased. The Spaniards who invaded Mexico tried to eliminate this seemingly offensive month-long holiday with no success. Dia de los Muertos was eventually merged with the Catholic All-Saints day and All-Souls day on November 1st and 2nd in an effort to make the holiday more Christian. Sugar art dates back to the 17th century when Italian missionaries visited the New World. Mexicans during that time period had very little money and learned from the Catholic friars how to make decorations out of an ingredient they had plenty of--sugar. Molds were made of clay and the sugar decorations were used to adorn the church and gravestones and were a part of the ofrendas--the collection of objects placed on an altar for the holiday. For the Dia de los Muertos celebrations, the sugar was pressed into sugar skulls; each sugar skull represented an individual and their name was often inscribed on the forehead of the skull.

day of the dead
Dia de los Muertos is November 1st and 2nd. Smaller skulls are placed on the ofrenda on November 1st to represent the children who have deceased. On November 2nd they are replaced by larger, more ornate skulls which represent the adults. These decorative skulls have the name of the deceased on the forehead and are decorated with stripes, dots, and swirls of icing to enhance the features of the skulls. These designs are usually whimsical and brightly colored, not morbid or scary. Feathers, beads or colored foils are "glued" on with the icing to create highly ornate skulls. Some companies manufacture small, edible skulls to be eaten during the holiday and many artists sculpt, paint or create beautiful and ornate skulls to be used as decorations, jewelry, and cloth design.
mexican skulls

Would you see my sugar skull creations? click here

So isn't so fascinating all this tradition? For all these reasons I really like to make sugar skull mugs and other pottery items. Two years ago I also did a make up on myself and a friend took me some pictures with my pottery. Enjoy the following photos.
photo credits: Steve Malone
calavera mexicana
day of the dead
Now you know the meaning of this beautiful mexican (and a bit italian) tradition. So if you appreciate the sugar skulls you can see some of my creations with the mexican skull.
sugar skull teapot
skull pottery mug
calavera catrina mug
And to know more about I make the sugar skull mugs here you can watch this video about myself while I am painting one:
story text credits:

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