Day of the Dead ~ Día de los Muertos

Day of the Dead is an interesting holiday celebrated in central and southern Mexico during the chilly days of November 1 & 2. Even though this coincides with the Catholic holiday called All Soul’s & All Saint’s Day, the indigenous people have combined this with their own ancient beliefs of honoring their deceased loved ones.

They believe that the gates of heaven are opened at midnight on October 31, and the spirits of all deceased children (angelitos) are allowed to reunite with their families for 24 hours. On November 2, the spirits of the adults come down to enjoy the festivities that are prepared for them.

Day of the Dead family alter:

In the homes, family members honor their deceased with ofrendas or offerings which may consist of photographs, bread, other foods, flowers, toys and other symbolic offerings. Altars may contain all hand-made items or ones that have been purchased.

The Sugar Skull Tradition

Sugar art was brought to the New World by Italian missionaries in the 17th century. The first Church mention of sugar art was from Palermo at Easter time when little sugar lambs and angels were made to adorn the side altars in the Catholic Church.

Mexico, abundant in sugar production and too poor to buy fancy imported European church decorations, learned quickly from the friars how to make sugar art for their religious festivals. Clay molded sugar figures of angels, sheep and sugar skulls go back to the Colonial Period 18th century. Sugar skulls represented a departed soul, had the name written on the forehead and was placed on the home ofrenda or gravestone to honor the return of a particular spirit. Sugar skull art reflects the folk art style of big happy smiles, colorful icing and sparkly tin and glittery adornments. Sugar skulls are labor intensive and made in very small batches in the homes of sugar skull makers. These wonderful artisans are disappearing as fabricated and imported candy skulls take their place.

DIY Skull

Pint your skull white and let dry. Seal with Sparkle Mod Podge-let dry. And decorate with markers, flowers and glitter.

Mexican Hot Chocolate

  • 2 cups milk (I used 2%)
  • ▢2 tablespoons  unsweetened coca powder
  • ▢2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ▢1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ▢1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ▢1/8 teaspoon chili powder
  • ▢1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne (optional – you can omit this if you don’t want it too spicy)
  • ▢1 ounce  bitter sweet chocolate
  • In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, add milk, cocoa powder, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla extract, chili powder, cayenne pepper (if desired). 
  • Mix together with a whisk, add the bittersweet chocolate and heat until the chocolate has completely melted and the mixture is hot, but not boiling.
  • Divide hot chocolate into 2 mugs and serve with marshmallows, chocolate shavings and a cinnamon stick.

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