I am sure you’ve already heard about them since they are taking over the world :) Seriously, when i first saw one although i didn’t like skulls before at the time it looked really special to me. The bright colors with funky skull and mysterious looks. There was something magical with it which left me felling interested. Later on i read all about sugar skull meaning and discovered they have meaningful insights. I mean have you ever asked yourself, why did they become so popular and widely used? And what’s their perception around the world?
Sugar Skulls and the Day Of The Dead
People’s perception of death differs a lot in different parts of the world. In Western culture for example skulls depict the dark, macabre and gruesome death. Therefore skulls feel scary and are the symbol of mortality. But in Mexico where sugar skulls were "born" things are pretty much opposite. Skulls used in Mexican culture are very colorful and whimsical, not scary at all. Mexicans have a holiday on 1st and 2nd November called The Day Of The Dead or “Dia de los Muertos”. It coincides with a Catholic holiday All Soul’s and All Saint’s Day in western countries but has little resemblance with it. Día de los Muertos is a holiday honoring deceased relatives and friends. And its so amazing that it’s not sad and dark as the name suggest but colorful and joyful. They are celebrating the life of a loved one.
Sugar skull meaning
If you take a closer look at the typical sugar skull you will notice it has most details around the eyes. Flowers are meant to symbolize life, while cob webs symbolize death. Burning candles set inside the eyes are a sign of remembrance. These items can also be used in combination to personalize the main focus of the skull as well.
As you might realize Sugar Skulls presents death in a fairly positive manner. Smaller skull’s represent children who passed away and larger and more detailed ones represent the adults.
How are sugar skulls used?
Mexicans used sugar skulls mostly to decorate the gravestones. They believe that the gates of heaven opens on October 31 at midnight and the spirits of all deceased children (angelitos) are allowed to reunite with their families for 1 day.
Usually they have written the name of the deceased relative on skull’s forehead. And then put skull on the altar, accompanied with marigolds (flower of the dead), candles and sometimes even the deceased’s favorite food. All that in order to encourage and guide them back to Earth so they would enjoy the offerings when they’re back.
Today you can find Sugar Skull symbols in candies, T-shirts, jewelry, various accessories like Sugar Skull Watches or Sugar Skull Phone Cases (I sure love this one). There are unlimited ways artists use them in their creations and products. Many people put on sugar skull make up (for Halloween) or get on of those pretty much permanently sugar skull tattoos.
Why are they called sugar skulls?
Well, they were traditionally made out of clay molded sugar, decorated with feather, colored bead, foil and ice. Mexicans didn’t have much money but they did have a lot of sugar. That’s why sugar was important ingredient in making of these beautiful sculptures. And as the years went by sugar skull designs became even more creative and extravagant. Today many skilled artisans participate in the yearly fair Feria del Alfeñique in Mexico where they sell traditional sugar skulls. Also a contest takes place in order to give a prize to the best candy skull and the best decorated business. And all that are the reasons why Sugar Skulls are gaining on popularity. They are an art! And a very interesting one.
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Now, how should you get more of sugar skulls in your life :) ?