Sugar skulls (or calaveritas de azucar in Spanish) are a staple of Dia de Muertos. However, questions about them still abound. For example, can you eat sugar skulls? And why are they so popular? In today’s blog post, we provide an answer.
Why Are Sugar Skulls Popular on Dia de los Muertos?
Sugar skulls are popular on Dia de Muertos because they are part of the original Dia de Muertos celebrations in Mexico.
Dia de Muertos is one of Mexico’s most famous cultural exports (even James Bond wants in on the action!), so it makes sense that all the symbols related to Dia de Muertos are popular too.
But the popularity of sugar skulls is probably due to aspects that go beyond the simple association with Dia de Muertos.
Skulls are seen as a symbol of danger and mystery. Think, for example, of how fighter pilots or motorcycle enthusiasts seem to love skull imagery. Combining this sense of peril with the sweetness of sugar creates an interesting juxtaposition that captures our imagination.
In general, the ability to create something funny and sweet (in a very literal sense) out of a stressful or sad situation, is something anyone can appreciate regardless of their culture.
What Is the Origin of Sugar Skulls?
Sugar skulls are popular in part due to the creepy factor, which has been present since their very origins.
The ancient peoples of Mexico revered death, and their altares de muertos often featured actual human skulls of enemies killed in war (yes, the Aztecs were heavy metal before heavy metal was even a thing).
However, the Spanish conquistadors weren’t exactly happy about this aspect of the Dia de Muertos traditions, so Mexicans substituted real skulls with sugar skulls made using a decoration technique known as alfeñique.
Alfeñique is a type of malleable confection made with sugar and other ingredients. The Spanish adopted the technique from the Arabs, so sugar skulls arrive to us courtesy of at least three different cultures!
Can Sugar Skulls Be Eaten?
Although sugar skulls are mostly made of ingredients such as sugar or lemon, they typically include non-edible elements. For example, it’s not uncommon for calaveritas to have sequin eyes.
As a rule of thumb, it’s better to assume that sugar skulls are just for decorative purposes and not to be eaten.
Sabukana: Unapologetically Embrace Yourself
Sabukana was created by two Latina sisters, Melanie and Scarlett, to celebrate their Latin roots and multicultural upbringing with a modern twist.
Our creations are made for people who unapologetically embrace their own. They represent our cultures, serving as a reminder of where we come from and who we are.