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Day of the Dead Sugar Skull - Meaning, Origin and Symbol Popularity

Posted by Controse Jewelry on

Sugar skulls are deeply rooted into the Mexican tradition and culture and they are an important part of the Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. These festive and colorful calaveras (Spanish for skull) have entered many other cultures and have become popular on many different levels; but mostly, a sugar skull symbol has entered the world of fashion. What is more, the Dia de Los Muertos skull has become popular among Halloween costumes and it certainly is a great face paint phenomenon. However, in order to better understand the sugar skull, let’s see what it is and what it means.

What is a Sugar Skull?

Spanish calaveras are actually a representation of a human skull. This term is most commonly used to describe edible or decorative skulls made by hand from sugar or clay, and they are used in the Mexican celebration of Día de los Muertos. In Roman Catholic tradition this is the All Souls’ Day.

The sugar skull can also refer to any of the artistic representations of skulls, for example the lithographs of José Guadalupe Posada. Additionally, some of the most popular and known calaveras are made with cane sugar and their decorative items include colored foil, beads, icing and feathers.

The Meaning of a Sugar Skull

Day of the Dead is one very colorful celebration that honors death and those who have passed. It is celebrated on the 1st and 2nd of November, but this tradition dates all the way back to 1630s. Día de los Muertos skull is made either for children or for the offerings to be placed on altars (ofrendas) for Day of the Dead holiday. This tradition has roots in Mayan, Aztec and Toltec tradition for celebration of this holiday.

So far, it is obvious that skulls and skeletons are the main symbol for the Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead. However, the most important symbol for this day certainly is the sugar skull or “calaveritas de azúcar”. They are white molded skulls with a person’s name written on the forehead, and the rest is decorated with ribbons and sweets.

However, you’re probably wondering why do these skulls look so festive and why they are made of sugar. Their meaning dates back to the Spanish conquest. The tradition of honoring the dead has already existed in Mexico at the time, but the Spaniard brought them new learnings and customs. Among these new things they brought the idea of molding decorations from easily available ingredients. Since sugar was accessible to everyone in Mexico at the time, it was an obvious choice. So, once they learned how to make the skull molds with sugar and water, the idea od Day of the Dead skull grew and evolved into a very important symbol of that holiday.

Skulls are placed at the altar as decorations to recognize and celebrate the person who has passed. The person’s name is written on the calavera’s forehead, and the size of the skull will vary depending on the age of the deceased. The colors and decorations of the Día de los Muertos skull will also differ. Some of them are covered with ribbons and icing, and others might be dipped in glitter and decorated with bows and hats. However, no matter what the color of the skulls is or what decorations include, you won’t find lack of any of those, because this holiday is all about celebrating life and reflecting it.

Literary Calaveras

Literary calaveras represent the poetry that is written for the Day of the Dead. These poems are intended to criticize the living and remind them of their mortality in a humorous way. The poetry for the Day of the Dead appeared at the end of the 19th century when drawing of important political figures began appearing in the press. Living personalities were portrayed as skeletons showing some recognizable traits in order to make them easy to identify.

Sugar Skull Tattoos

Since sugar skull has became one of the most popular symbols, it is no wonder it entered the world of fashion and tattoo art. There are many people who wear such tattoos and they all are absolutely amazing. There are many variations of sugar skull tattoos and each one of them is unique and beautiful, so let’s go through some of them.

Floral Sugar Skull

Even though such tattoos are not a skull per se, but more like flowers arranged to represent a skull, there is no doubt that these are amazing. The colors of the flowers certainly give away that Day of the Dead vibe.


Black and White Sugar Skull

Black and white tattoos are popular and they match perfectly with skulls. However, even though sugar skulls require plenty of colors, black and white tattoos can look amazing as well. With all the details, shading and different shapes, the festive feeling is there.


Frida Kahlo Sugar Skull

This one is certainly unique, because it depicts the most popular Mexican artist and the infamous sugar skull.


Realistic Variations

There are numerous variations of the sugar skull tattoos, and people are often making realistic ones. These tattoos consist of a face painted in a beautiful and colorful Day of the Dead skull.


These are only some of the variations and examples of these popular tattoos. There are thousands of designs and each one of them represents this holiday, tradition and symbol in its own unique ways.

Sugar Skull Jewelry

Besides the tattoos, we today have sugar skull jewelry and the pieces are just extraordinary. There are dozens of designs of necklaces, pendants, bracelets and earrings and all of them are colorful and festive. This design features the infamous skull made of silver or stainless steel, while the decorations feature many colors, shapes and decorations. Some of them even have crystals for eyes, and some are even shaped like animals. So, if you wish to pay tribute to this holiday or simply have a great piece that complements your style, you should check out some of these.

Skull with Heart Eyes

This is probably one of the most popular designs are it is a necklace with a sugar skull pendant. This particular skull has heart-shaped eyes, and it is made of stainless steel. Besides the silvery background it features beautiful festive decorations in bright colors, paying homage to the Day of the Dead. Or you can go with a regular floral sugar skull necklace.

Floral Sugar Skull

This particular necklace features the well-known calavera design but the decor is floral. The eyes are two colorful flowers, while the rest of the pendant features soothing but festive colors.

Shapes of Animals

There are also variations of this jewelry that features animals. For example, here we have the Day of the Dead animal skulls, which are cute and feature all the necessary decorations for giving away the festive vibes of this holiday.

Popularity of Sugar Skulls

You have probably figured out that the sugar skulls are very popular today. It is no wonder since they look amazing, beautiful and pay tribute to the deceased. That is why we have numerous representations of calaveras. There is plenty of art done on paper or designed on a computer. Some people are even making cookies and cupcakes in various shapes with the sugar skull featured on the top. There are even popular makeup artists doing the calavera art and not to mention all the DIY projects of decorating clothing, jewelry, accessories and many other objects.

The Day of the Dead is celebrated in many different cultures, but the Mexican one is the most festive and popular. If you ever have the chance, attend the Día de los Muertos, but if you can’t there are plenty of items you can collect for yourself and wear them proudly.