Sugar skulls are used during the Day of the Dead to represent those who have died. The Day of the Dead, known as Dia de los Muertos in Spanish, is celebrated on November 1. During this time, sugar skulls, which are known as "calavera" in Spanish, are painted in bright colors and placed on display.
While Dia de los Muertos is celebrated throughout much of Latin America, it is most associated with Mexico, the country in which it originated. It is a time to honor the dead through parties and festivals. People celebrate the lives of their loved ones who have died by participating in activities they had enjoyed. Happiness surrounds the holiday because it is believed that showing sadness is an insult to the dead. The customs of Dia de los Muertos combine traditions found in Roman Catholicism and ancient Aztec culture. Dia de los Muertos is celebrated on the Catholic holidays of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day.
The calaveras appear as candies, dolls and masks during the holiday. Sugar skulls are made with sugar cane, and decorated with vegetable dyes of red, blue, yellow or green. The calaveras can also be made of clay instead of sugar. Along with the calavera are the calacas, or skeletons, which are clothed in fancy attire.