My daughter was born on November 1, and now at kindergarten age she has become very interested in the festival held on her birthday.
El Dia de los Muertos is a 3-day Mexican fiesta to honor the dead. To celebrate, one must prepare an altar, or ofrenda, an offering to one’s dead loved ones. An altar may have flowers, specifically marigold, which is the flowers of the dead, photos of our dead loved ones, food and sugar skulls.
The fiesta begins on October 31, All Hallow’s Eve, also known as Halloween in the United States. All Hallow’s Eve is supposed to be when spirits of dead children roam the earth. At this time toys and candies may be added to the altar.
The dead children’s visit extends overnight into November 1, called All Saints Day, in honor of dead children, innocents who perished before their time. By 3 pm the dead children are supposed to return to the land of the dead, and the adult dead are supposed to take their turn roaming the land of the living.
November 2 is called All Souls Day. This is the day to honor all adult dead loved ones. In the afternoon families visit the cemetery to usher the dead back to the afterlife, to clean graves, offer fresh flowers and reminisce about the loved ones who have died.
El Dia de los Muertos not only pokes fun at mortality, but also sets aside time to remember our dead loved ones.
We prepare the sugar skulls a week before El Dia de los Muertos. I got the skull mold from Casa Bonampak. I chose Large so that we had more surface to work with for little fingers like my 6-year-old’s, but they have other sizes available. I also bought a small jar of meringue powder, an indispensable ingredient in making the sugar skulls. Here is a list containing everything you would need (except the sugar).
Here is a detailed recipe for Sugar Skulls, with tables for measurement conversions and yield.
After the skulls are dry, we hollow them out and reuse the discarded sugar to make more skulls. It is incredibly still moldable.
Then we put the two sides of the skull together using Royal Icing (recipe here). One can make colored icing by adding food-based coloring to the Royal Icing in separate cups. I have a lot of store-bought icing in my pantry so we used it to decorate our skulls.
Here are some finished sugar skulls.
I put sequins in the middle of the eye sockets so that the eyes catch the light.