Have you heard of Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead? It’s one of my family’s favorite Holiday traditions. Celebrated November 1st – 2nd, in many Latin American countries, the Holiday is about remembering and honoring loved ones who have passed away. I learned all about the Holiday when my family moved to Mexico City when I was in 8th grade. I loved the concept of not only taking a day to remember the people you miss, but also to honor them with some fun and festivity. Sounds odd, right? But here’s the thing. The Mexican culture embraces death as just another aspect of life. It is not to be feared. And even when you are gone, you are not truly gone if someone remembers you.
I have passed this fun tradition on to my family and boy, do they look forward to it every year. To celebrate, we create a Dia de los Muertos shrine or “altar” in our house. These “altars” are not for worshipping, they are just a colorful, fun, physical reminder of the people you miss. Then on the evening of Nov. 1st, we cook a special dinner to honor our loved ones who have passed on, like our Grandpa and our pets. In other words, we throw them a party. We make their favorite foods, display photos of those we love, and share funny stories to help keep their memories alive. The kids love it. And, of course, we decorate with fabulous bright colors, candy skulls, and have tons of food where we eat, eat, eat.
This year my daughter and I wanted to make something that we could use to decorate our Dia de Los Muertos shrine. There is nothing more iconic for Day of the Dead than the Calaveras or Sugar Skulls that are sold all over Mexico around this time of year. So I came up with an easy paper craft to make little Calaveras or Calaveritas that we could work on and decorate together. (It’s also another great opportunity for the kids and I to talk about the people we miss most.)
However, you don’t have to celebrate Dia de los Muertos to have fun decorating these skulls with the kids. Just use them as Halloween decorations.
- White cardstock
- Colored construction or scrapbook paper
- Markers, colored pencils, crayons
- Decorating embellishments – glitter, jewels, foam cut-out shapes, felt
To get started, download the Calavera or skull template I created from the link above. If you want to make bigger skulls you can enlarge it when you print or copy it and enlarge it. Same thing if you want to make smaller skull, just reduce the size when you print or copy. Make sure you copy it onto cardstock or cover paper. You need a little extra weight to hold up to the glue and decorations.
Cut out the skull and start decorating. We used markers to create the dots and squiggly lines around the skulls’ eyes, mouth and nose. Day of the Dead art uses a lot of turquoise, rose, lime green, black and purple colors. So don’t be shy, the more colorful the better.
To decorate or embellish your calaveritas, I just used whatever I could find around the house. Glitter, jewels, foam stick-on shapes, and scraps of colorful paper. We cut out shapes of hearts and flowers to glue to the skulls.
We used glue to draw a flower and then poured glitter over the glue. Tap it off and you get a glitter shape on your calaverita. You can even have your kids write their names at the top of the skulls because in Mexico it is tradition to have your name written in frosting on the top of the sugar skulls you buy. For inspiration on how to decorate your calaveras, check out my Day of the Dead Ideas Board on Pinterest.
Once you have your Calaverita decorated, you can paste them up around the house, you can tape them to the windows, or you can decorate your own Dia de los Muertos shrine. Click here for the directions to create a Dia de los Muertos altar in your house.
You can also turn your Calaverita into a mask. Cut the eyes out so you can see and glue a popsicle stick to the back of the skull to hold it in front of you to cover your face.
More Day of the Dead fun ideas:
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