November 1st is a holiday for both Mexican and Latin Americans where family and friends who have passed away are remembered. This holiday is known as Day of the Dead (El Día de los Muertos or All Souls' Day). On this day, participants visit cemeteries and build altars to speak to the souls of the deceased, to celebrate them, and to leave them presents. The most popular gifts are sugar skulls known as “calaveras de azúcar.” These skulls are both colorful and ornate and are common design themes for those seeking Day of the Dead tattoos.
Day of the Dead Tattoo Skulls
Sugar skulls are a form of traditional folk art from Southern Mexico used to celebrate Day of the Dead. Countless colorful sugar skulls are sold in village markets the week before the holiday. On November 1st, families welcome the spirits of the dead back into their homes with beautifully decorated altars adorned marigolds, candles, incense, specially prepared foods and carefully crafted sugar skulls. These sugar skulls are colorfully decorated with icing, bright foil, colored sugars, and usually bare the name of the person or spirit being honored. They are easy to make and are prepared by both children and adults and, if kept dry, can last up to one year.
On November 2nd, families take the sugar skulls, along with flowers, to various gravesites to decorate the tombs of their loved ones and to celebrate their spirits.
In relation to tattoos, the colorful sugar skulls are the dominant inspiration for many Day of the Dead tattoo designs. Many designs incorporate marigolds or the flower petals of marigolds—ancient symbols of death—adding to the geometric patterns and bold designs of the skulls. Overall, Day of the Dead tattoos featuring sugar skull designs are unique ways to remember loved ones when searching for more graphic and colorful alternatives to traditional portrait-style tattoos.
Variations of Day of the Dead Tattoos
Day of the Dead tattoos do not all feature decorated skulls. Other variations feature groups of skeletons celebrating with wine, food and dancing. Others may include skeletons playing musical instruments or brightly dressed so that the designs are more representative of the people being honored.
Colors of Day of the Dead Tattoos
The ink colors chosen for many Day of the Dead tattoos often carry subtle messages. A few of these colors include:
Pink: Happiness and celebration
White: Hope and spiritual pureness
Orange: The sun and a new day
Red: Blood and sacrifice
Yellow: Marigolds (symbol of death in ancient Aztec and Central American mythology)
Purple: Grief and the pain associated with the loss of a loved one
Indigo: Grief and the pain associated with the loss of a loved one
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