Are you ready to celebrate All Souls’ Day with a monstrously fabulous Day of the Dead party on 2nd November? It’s not celebrated everywhere around the world, but it’s seriously popular in Mexico where people gather to pray and remember their dead, followed by a huge festival!
Rich in rituals, this is a spiritual life-affirming celebration and is the complete opposite of Halloween, which is a night of terror when the dead come back to life. The theme of the Day of the Dead is still death however, but it’s about demonstrating love and respect for dead friends and relatives. So if you want to host a Day of the Dead celebration, here is everything you need to know to make it a huge success!
Day of the Dead costume
One of the most recognisable symbols of the Day of the Dead is the female skeleton wearing a fancy hat with a feather and is called La Catrina. The drawing of this skeleton originated in the early 1900s when artist Jose Guadalupe Posada (who was a controversial and political cartoonist), drew the skeleton to remind people that rich or poor, we all end up as a skeleton. Since that time, this skeleton has become a symbol for the Day of the Dead festivities.
Day of the Dead outfits mimics this skeleton, where men and women wear brightly coloured clothes and paint their faces to resemble a skeleton. These outfits are also known as Sugar Skull costumes, but the actual Sugar Skull is a representation of the human skull (also called a Calavera) applied to decorative or edible skulls made from sugar, chocolate or clay.
The decorations on these Sugar Skulls are bright and colourful, often created using icing, and it’s this same design that people use to decorate their own faces when they create their Day of the Dead costume. These skulls are used as offerings to the dead, placed on altars, and it’s believed that the dead come back home to enjoy these offerings.
If you want to create your own Day of the Dead dress, you can choose any brightly coloured outfit at all, because the main focus is on the painted faces and the headwear!
Day of the Dead makeup and headwear
To create your own Sugar Skull or Day of the Dead face, you need good makeup skills! To begin, you need a base colour over your entire face and neck, which is usually white, but can be any colour. The main colours you need will be black and red, but you can use pops of other colours. The designs you chose for your Day of the Dead makeup are up to you, but black eyes and sockets surrounded by red circles are one option, black spiderwebs on the forehead, black noses, crosses, and flower designs are also common.
There are plenty of images available online, so you shouldn’t have any problems coming up with a design that suits your costume. However, your Sugar Skull costume won’t be complete without some sort of headwear and the most popular are big flowery blossoms, either on one side of your head or across the top of your head like a tiara. You can also wear colourful wigs, but don’t forget the flowers in your hair.
Day of the Dead party decorations
Your decorations will focus on skulls, skeletons and lots and lots of bright colours. Streamers, banners, tablecloths, poppers and table wear, everything is simply colourful and exciting. Some people select a more black, white and red theme, but that’s more for Halloween than the Day of the Dead. Here are a few fabulous DIY options for your Day of the Dead party decorations.
- Sugar Skull pumpkins: Cut the top off the pumpkin and create a hole just big enough to stand the base of a wide candle. Paint the pumpkin white and then use black paint to outline the face of a skeleton. Add the lighted candle and surround the edges of the candle with pretty flowers (gerberas are great).
- Glow in the dark skull lanterns: Use glow in the dark sticks to outline a Sugar Skull pattern on jam jars, then paint the inside of the jars with glow in the dark paint. Place the jars around a darkened room or outside and they will glow in the dark!
- Sugar Skull balloons: Blow up some white balloons and use a permanent marker to outline the face of a Sugar Skull on each balloon. String them up inside or outside in the garden, but around the food table is a great idea.
- Sugar Skull pinatas: If you are skilled with crafts, you might want to try your hand at making a pinata in the shape of a Sugar Skull and fill it with colourful sweets.
Day of the Dead food & drinks
For your food and drinks, think Mexican! Margaritas, Paloma and any type of Tequila based drinks will go down a treat! Then think about chilli, tacos and burritos!
- Paloma is Mexico’s favourite drink, just mix Tequila, grapefruit, lime and soda for a fabulous celebratory drink.
- Mexican cocktails made with beer, lime juice and tomato juice will be enough to make any Day of the Dead guest faint with horror!
- Mexican beers, for example, Corona are very popular around the world.
- Spanish rice, tortillas, tacos and a big pot of chilli will keep everyone fed and happy!
- If you want a truly authentic Mexican dish try Mole – a spicy sauce that’s their national dish! Made from sautéed onions, garlic, ground nuts, chillies, exotic spices and herbs, and simmered in dark bittersweet chocolate and served with turkey or pork, your party will be remembered forever!
- For your sweet course, try some homemade churros dipped in chocolate and peanut butter sauce, sopapillas stuffed with cream cheese or a fabulous chocolate caramel turtle flan!
Once you have your Day of the Dead dress ready, your face painted, hair done, and you have your drinks cabinet ready and food all cooked, you will host the best Day of the Dead party ever! More inspiration for your Sugar Skull celebrations can be found at CostumeBox!