Dia de los Muertos Header

Below, Silvia Martinez of Mamá Latina Tips, the award winning bilingual blog, reveals the cultural tradition behind Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and her recipe for the holiday’s signature sugar skulls.

While we do celebrate Halloween in Mexico, we also celebrate Día de los Muertos on Nov. 1 and 2, the days when our loved ones who have passed come to visit us. Because we know and love these visitors, Día de los Muertos is more a night of celebration than a night of fright.

We enjoy our favorite foods, visit with family and celebrate the sweetness of life. Here are some photos my family and I took at a Dia de los Muertos celebration in central Mexico. 

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Musicians celebrating Día de los Muertos  in a cemetery in Mexico

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My family’s interpretation of an Altar de Muertos in central Mexico

Sugar skulls are traditional decor (check my recipe below for an edible version!) from Día de los Muertos, which helps welcome back loved ones. Generally, they decorate the display or altar set up in honor of fallen family members. It is believed that the souls of the children who have passed visit on Nov. 1, while adults visit the night of Nov. 2.

Here is an incredibly simple way to create a traditional sugar skull that you might see on a Dia de los Muertos display in Mexico.

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Edible Sugar Skulls by Mamá Latina 

Makes 20 mini skulls

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of water
  • 1/8 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • Skull molds
  • Writing icing tubes in several colors
  • Edible decoration items (sprinkles, crushed candy, edible glitter, etc.)

What You’ll Do:

1. Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees F. In a bowl, combine sugar and water. Using your fingers, combine everything well until it feels like wet sand. Take the mold and pack the sugar really well, pushing with your fingers until every space of the mold is filled. Turn them over carefully on a baking sheet, and bake for 10-12 minutes.

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2. Take the skulls out of the oven, and let them cool down, about 30 minutes. Cover a clean table with parchment paper or paper towels. Open your icing tubes, and let your imagination go wild.

3. You can use colors and edible design pieces as you wish—every skull is expected to be unique. If you don’t have every color you want, try mixing the ones you have. Make purple out of blue and red, for example. These skulls are 100 percent edible! However, feel free to use inedible decor items such as glitter, beads or foil on skulls to use in your Altar de Muertos (just don’t eat those, of course!). Tip: If you want to add a layer of colors on top of the other, be sure to allow enough time to dry between layers.

4. Let the skulls dry for about 15 minutes, and they will be ready to eat.

Enjoy your Día de los Muertos!

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