Celebrating Day of the Dead

Halloween is my favourite time of year, but I always struggle as to whether or not I want to celebrate in classic orange pumpkin and black bat style Halloween traditions, or if I want to channel the brightly coloured and sugared spirit of Dia de los Muertos.

One year my Halloween festivities landed squarely on the 1st November, which is the start of the Mexican tradition, so I decided to uphold an honor dead ancestors and living spirits alike. We made invitations that claimed “we live, we die, we party” and suggested painting their faces like sugar skulls so that the spirits won’t recognise them as humans and won’t haunt them.

Our invitations made the rounds on Facebook, and my graphic designer Friend Byron Carr made cards that turned photos of himself, our Japanese Spitz Buddy, and I into outlined sugar skulls, complete with redeeming features and recognisable hair. He did a fantastic job, and the end effect was truly Day of the Dead inspired!

Fast forward to Saturday 1st November (officially Dia de los Muertos) where we spent the day decorating with beautiful bunches of colourful geraniums and roses. Sitting in vases that came in a variety of different shapes and sizes, the eclectic mix of colours of red, orange, yellow, green, pink and purple matched uniquely with the colour scheme Byron used in his creation of the invitations.

On other areas of the venue, we utilised the space by using fake woollen cobwebs to create a dark and envious effect and lit the area with heaps of little tea light candles, votive candles, and even large bleeding taper candles that I purchased for the occasion. The effect was spooky, yet had the comforting Day of the Dead feel that the Mexicans find in this unique celebrations.

Byron and I purchased paper mache skulls from an online Etsy store and began to paint our very own sugar skulls for the occasion. Taking inspiration from Moulin Rouge’s underlying themes of freedom, truth, beauty and love, we painted our sugar skulls in bright, matching colours to suit the theme – one for each skull (we had five skulls, but Buddy ate one!). We then glossed them and used them as decorations on the dessert table, along with a large white skull with yellow geraniums bursting from its eyes.

The dessert table mixed the brown wood of the table with a zesty lime green table runner we had left over from our wedding, and a colour so bright it blended right in to the colourful celebration. With flowers, skulls and tea light candles on either side, and Mexican prayer flags waving from every door frame, the zesty and bright feeling of living inside a sugar skull was extremely apparent.

To help out our hungry guests, we went with a Mexican theme for the food – serving a 3 layer Mexican dip with corn chips and Mexican street corn in cups. Both food items were spicy, but a real hit with guests. We also had a fully stocked bar ready to go, and many shots of Tequila at the ready! Ah, Tequila – it’s not your friend, and I can tell you that from experience at this very party!

Overall, it was a very successful party. Everything was bright and cheerful, including our guests! There were even several dogs at the party, dressed to the nines as a wizard, a dinosaur and our very own little Mexican. Adorable!

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