By Karen Schultz Anderson
When children come to our Dia de los Muertos Craft Day, they are often drawn to sugar skulls waiting to be individually decorated (but not eaten!). These sugar skulls are an important part of Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, which is celebrated in Mexico and other Latin American countries from midnight of October 31 through November 2. The holiday is now also celebrated in many cities across the United States. Dia de los Muertos, a rich combination of pre-Hispanic and Roman Catholic customs, is a wonderful example of the synthesis of cultures that has come to define Latin America, and in part, reflect the history of Santa Barbara.
According to popular belief, on Dia de los Muertos the spirits of the dead return to commune with the living. Dedicated to remembering and honoring those that have passed before us, the celebration also focuses on the artistic expression of the living as families leave homemade offerings for these deceased family members. Decorated sugar skulls are part of these offerings, along with food such as pan de muerto, candles, marigolds, and folk art skeletons, to name just a few things that can decorate specially-designed altars.
SBTHP purchases unadorned sugar skulls from a local business, La Bella Rosa Bakery, and two wonderful volunteers, Diane Ruiz and Judy Pearce, teach children and their parents how to use “Royal Icing” with a pastry bag and make their very own personalized sugar skull. This folk art is not to be eaten … but rather enjoyed as it adorns a Dia de los Muertos altar or simply smiles down at you from a kitchen shelf!
We hope to see you at our free Dia de los Muertos celebration at Casa de la Guerra on Sunday, October 30 from noon – 3:00 pm. Bring the whole family!
Karen Schultz Anderson is SBTHP’s Director of Education and enjoys putting on this well-attended event.