My colourful Sugar Skull candle holder casts a ‘happy’ skull face across the ceiling. I snuggle into my Sugar Skull cushions and take a sip of coffee from my colourful Sugar Skull mug.
When I first came across this pretty take on what is known to be a morbid symbol, I was delighted that some artist had finally discovered that skulls don’t always need to depict poison; (the skull and crossbones on chemical bottles), darkness; (the gothic skulls with black eyes and an evil grin) and horror; (skulls dropping off bodies, rolling across floors, blood, guts, you get the idea).
Skulls to me also mean life. We all have them, no matter how pretty or long your hair is, underneath that shiny mane we all look the same.
I have cut them open with a saw to retrieve a brain, screwed them together and cleaned them.
Far away from the mortuary, lies the history of the colourful sugar skull. West of Mexico City, in fact. It all takes place in the city of Patzcuaro. Known as a holy place it is the backdrop for a one it’s kind festival held in early November. The event doesn’t celebrate heroes or saints, royalty or the wealthy, but something that no other country on the planet honours: Death.
This makes Mexico a special place to live and die.
The children of Patzcuaro decorate skulls made of sugar to eat, just like we do with eggs during Easter. (Hence the name Sugar Skull). They are taught here that the skull is a symbol of Life.
Once a year, the women bake ‘Day Of The Dead’ bread and specially grown flowers are harvested and brilliant arches of colour are created. Offerings are attached to the arches; fruits and gifts, to entice the dead to return to their loved ones who are still living.All night during the festival, candles are lit, stories shared, dancing and chanting, parades of breathtaking colour, costumes and floats of you guessed it…Sugar skulls.
I am so humbled by this stunning memorial of the dead. When I am conducting funerals I always feel so happy when bright balloons are let go to symbolise life, or dove releases, with the beautiful white birds swooping amongst the gravestones. I wish more of the world could understand death. Live their lives aware of their mortality and that death should be celebrated. Its presence enriches life! My favourite home decor has led me to discover there is somewhere in the world that not only ‘gets’ it…but celebrates it!!!