Every October, in a place far from the U.S. southern border, where the threat of early snow dictates that my kids may end up using winter coats as a costume for Halloween (think princess in a parka people!), we partake in our yearly tradition of making calaveras or sugar skulls for the Mexican holiday of Dia de los Muertos.
This year, it is even more exciting, as we are looking forward to the upcoming release of Disney Pixar’s film, Coco. The film Coco tells the story of a young boy Miguel who searches for his lost ancestors by entering the realm of the dead on Dia de los Muertos. The holiday is so special to us and we are excited to see its traditions and beauty shared with the rest of the world.
Celebrated yearly on November 1 and 2, Dia de los Muertos is linked to the Halloween season only in a traditional connection to the harvest, honoring our ancestors, and the Christian traditions of All Saints (or All Souls) Day. It is not interchangeable with Halloween. There is nothing gorey scary about it: Families gather to honor those who have passed on, believing strongly that their spirits are still with us as long as we take the time to remember and honor them. Crafting “ofrenda” altars or offerings, helps us to remember and honor our family members and loved one who have passed on.
Calavera skulls are meant to represent the souls of the departed, and are traditionally made from sugar, bread dough, or papier-mâché. They are a great way to celebrate the holiday and to bring the story of Coco to life in your home. They are a fun and artistic way to introduce your family to this rich part of Mexican culture.
What you will need:
- Papier-mâché skulls, easily purchased at Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, Etsy or your local craft store
- Newspapers for creating clean workspace
- White base coat acrylic paint
- Assorted colors of acrylic paint
- Pencil and eraser
- Paint brushes
- Paper plate to use a palette for colors
- Beads, glitter or gem stickers to adorn the skull
- Water in jars or cups to clean brushes
- Clear-coat gloss to protect and finish you design
The How-to’s of Day of the Dead Skull Crafting:
1. Prepare you workspace by covering your table with newspapers
2. Paint your skulls with a basecoat of white paint. It will help the colors to show up more vibrantly. Let dry completely.
3. Lightly sketch your design on the dry, white papier-mâché skull
4. Create your palette of colors on a paper plate. Begin painting your design (the more colorful the better!) making sure to rinse your brushes between colors in fresh, clean water.
5. Let your design dry and add any accessories like fake gems or glitter using glue. Let dry.
6. Spray with clear coat gloss in a well-ventilated area. We take our skulls outside to do this!
7. Display for everyone to enjoy!
Scroll below of a gallery of ideas and step-by-step photos. Are you excited to see, Coco? Do you celebrate Day of the Dead? What are some of your family traditions? Post them to the WDW Radio Facebook page. We would love to see them!
(Photos from the author’s personal collection.)
To learn more about Kristin Fuhrmann-Simmons and read her recent posts for WDW Radio, visit her author page by clicking on her name at the top of this post.