California is rich with Mexican culture and, this time of year, Dia del Los Muertos is everywhere. The festivities start on October 31st and continue through November 2nd. Sugar skulls in the shape of coffee mugs, flower vases, even toasters are plentiful, but it wasn’t until I watched Coco that I understood the sentimentality behind this holiday.
This visually stunning animation introduced the world to the Aztec celebration that reunites the living with their dearly departed for a few days and Halloween took on new meaning. With month-end fast-approaching, Daisy and I decided to dive in with vibrant make-up, bright rhinestones and big red roses. Who knew dressing up like a sugar skull could be so much fun?
November 2nd marks All Soul’s Day and, in Mexico, it’s a huge spectacle. Everyone participates in the festivities, even little ones who look forward to decorated sugar skulls called calaveras. It is these skeletal images that are represented with face paint.
There are many variations on make-up and garb. Some paint only half the face, emphasizing the connection between the living and dead. Someone use non-traditional colors in shades of blues or purples. Gemstones or pearls trace the orbits, highlighting beautiful gateways to the soul. Take a look here for inspiration.
We were in a bit of a hurry to slap paint onto each other’s faces and skipped applying the white foundation, but there really aren’t any rules for this. You can do anything you like, as long as you enjoy the creative process. Some opt out of the white foundation, as we did. This simply saves a bit of time and money. Even though I’d purchased a face paint palette, white eyeliner, false lashes and box of 1,000 cosmetic brushes, we really just used what I already had in my cosmetics bag – black eyeliner, eye shadow and mascara, blush, red lipstick. Daisy did my make-up and I painted her face. I hesitated putting too much onto her delicate face and she turned out beautifully!
Day of the Dead Make-up Tutorial
Face paint palette (like this)
Black eyeliner (my fav)
Neutral (skin-tone) eye shadow
False eyelashes & adhesive
Black eye shadow
Flatback rhinestone stickers (like these)
Start with basic eye make-up.
Use a neutral eye shadow on the upper lids as a primer before applying the liner. It helps prevent smudging.
Line the top lid above the lashline and the bottom lid above the lashline (avoid getting liner into your eyes) for a mysterious look.
Apply false lashes, if using, then mascara.
If you are going for the sugar skull look, now is a good time to cover your face with white.
Then, apply black paint or eye shadow around the eyes, tracing within the orbital bone.
Apply rhinestone or pearl sticks around the orbits, if using.
Apply blush, a somewhat exaggerated amount to the cheeks.
Line the lips and apply lipstick.
Using the black eyeliner, draw the nose cavity onto the top of the nose, somewhat in the shape of an inverted heart.
Put on the skeleton jumper, gloves and flower headband.
Now you’re ready to paint the town!
Husband and wife are both classically trained artists who donned a romantic look noting “Til death do us part” before their Fall wedding several years ago, him in classic Mexican attire and her in traditional Armenian garb, a most memorable image.
They didn’t use any elaborate stickers or rhinestones, just paint. Their detailed face painting, shadows, three-dimensional depiction of the spinal cord and rib cage is remarkable, a testament to their talents. Clearly, this is something we are unlikely to replicate, but we can still have tons of fun putting our own twist on Day of the Dead.
To Bling or Not to Bling
That certainly is the question. Lucky for us, there is a multitude of sparkly stickers everywhere. You can also opt for metallic paint or make-up to highlight some parts.
If it’s the golden halo you want, DIY it for pennies. Stop by your local hardware supply store and pick up cable ties of a couple different sizes and gold spray paint. You will also need a headband and perhaps some glitter. Fasten zip ties around the headband.
Place it onto a large piece of newspaper outside. Spray with gold paint. While the paint is still wet, sprinkle gold glitter over the sun rays. This is purely optional, but who can resist some extra sparkle?
Once the paint has dried, hot glue silk flowers around the halo and attach a piece of black lace. Don’t be afraid to be creative with the colors. Add your own twist to this tradition.
We added some traditional Mexican decorations to our home this year for an especially festive look.
I chose plastic papel picado banners as they are more durable than the classic papers ones. Chili pepper lights are adorable, especially in the kitchen. I think I’ll leave them on year-round! A colorful paper flower garland echoes the beautiful flowers worn by ladies on Halloween.
As a working mom, I have very little quality time with my Daisy. The mornings are a rush to get her to school and us to work. Then, the evenings are a rush to do homework, cook dinner, eat dinner, clean up, get her into the shower and off to bed. The weekends are holidays are truly treasures for me. Daisy has a lot of activities then, too, karate, horseback riding lessons, birthday parties and such, but, every now and then, I can conjure up a craft, baking project to keep her entertained. And, for that precious pinch of time, she’s all mine to enjoy.
Reviving old traditions from different cultures, especially those long gone like the Aztecs makes otherwise ordinary days special and teaches appreciation for people from all walks of life. It is so important for the next generation to learn the value of history, tradition, cultures other than their own.
The best gift we can give to our children is our time, even doing something simple like face-painting. This Mommy & Me makeup session for Dia De Los Muertos was a blast! Nothing fancy is needed to get the look. Just let your creativity soar. Look around the house and see what you can find to add your own spin to the classic image.