This post was made in partnership with Tequila Cazadores. Recipes and ideas are my own.
Not all skulls are spooky. At this time of year, death in many forms takes center stage as many of us celebrate Halloween, and for those practicing Catholicism, there is also All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. In Mexico at this time of year Día de los Muertos is a national celebration where one can’t help but see skulls everywhere. But these skulls are not our spooky Halloween skulls, these are in celebration, as a time of remembering those who have died. And why are we talking about this here today?
Well, for one, we’re right in the middle of Day of the Dead celebrations, which go from October 31st to November 2nd. And secondly, Tequila Cazadores has released a special bottle to commemorate the holiday designed by the Mexican artist Victoria Villasana. She “was inspired by the Cazadores Stag and its meaning in indigenous cultures in Mexico. The stag is a messenger, a powerful animal that represents sensitivity and intuition. Just like Día de los Muertos, it represents a connection with our ancestors and the bridge between life and death.”
Day of the Dead celebrations are vibrant, colorful affairs and Villasana has translated that onto the bottle through her use of painting with yarn. She is an amazing artist whose aesthetic blends perfectly with the celebrations.
This year marks the first year that I am making an altar with ofrendas, or offerings, at home. I was introduced to the holiday through my Mesoamerican Art History studies in college years ago, but this year my oldest has started asking some big questions about life and death lately. I feel like this is the perfect way to not only honor our deceased relatives, but to give an honest answer about the cycle of life in a way that is not scary, but rather joyous and celebratory.
If you are thinking about celebrating Día de los Muertos in your home this year for the first time. Here’s a primer on a few of the symbols that would be found on the altar and in the home.
- Alcohol: Any alcohol favored by the dead is used to toast the arrival of their spirit.
- Pan de Muerto: This is a semisweet bread that is eaten on the second day of the holiday. It is baked in the shape of bones and dusted with sugar; it also represents the soil.
- Marigold flowers: Marigolds held guide loved ones’ souls back to the world of the living.
- Sugar skulls: Sugar skulls, or calaveras, are made from pure sugar and given to friends as gifts. They are elaborately decorated, and their colorful designs represent the vitality of life and individual personality.
- Candles: Candles represent fire and serve as a light guiding the spirits back to visit the land of the living.
- Monarch butterflies: These butterflies⸺which migrate to Mexico each fall⸺are believed to be the spirits of the dead coming to visit.
- Candy: Altars built for deceased children include a candy offering.
- Salt: In Latin culture, salt is considered the spice of life.