Day of the Dead Party Guide

Day of the Dead Party Guide

Angela Villalba

A popular new alternative to a Halloween party, Day of the Dead parties are being held all over the United States either on the weekend before or after November 2.

Don’t feel timid about hosting a sugar skull party as they are fun, family oriented and everyone who comes takes part in the success of the party! You just provide the place, the materials for Ofrenda Building or Sugar Skull Making, and decide if are going to provide the food or have a potluck! The party begins with the invitation which can be colorful and include a brief description of what’s going to happen at the party (sugar skull decorating or ofrenda building), if they are to bring a memento of their honored spirit for the ofrenda, and if they are to bring some food or music. Day of the Dead parties are collaborative events – the point is to create a space for an event where everyone can express themselves! Don’t forget to take pictures! You can make the invitations using colorful paper, your computer or our Skeleton Rubber Stamps. Those scrap booking tips can come in handy. Remember, Day of the Dead is all about hand made folk art!

Sugar Skull Decorating

Before the party begins, make a sugar skull for each guest. Younger children will have a more successful result with the Original Large Mold, although they are more time consuming to make. If you don’t want to make large skulls for everyone, make Original Mediums for the older guests. These skull blanks may be made months in advance and stored in cardboard boxes between layers of thick newspaper. Not plastic boxes. Then you’ll only have to make the Royal Icing on the night before your party.

Pile up the sugar skull blanks on a colorful oilcloth tablecloth (check out our Day of the Dead designs) for an impressive entry. Have the disposable icing bags filled, tied and ready to go. Let guests decorate a skull during the course of the evening, working on a paper plate to keep mess to a minimum.

Provide plates of glitter, sequins, feathers and colored tin foils to decorate with. Feel free to download our Day of the Dead information sheet explaining the history of the holiday for each guest to take home. The collection of decorated sugar skulls will grow and be quite impressive by the end of the party. Display as the major elements in a ofrenda or display table. Remember to take photos!

Use disposable paper Sugar Skull Boats so your guests can transport their sugar skulls home.

Sugar Skull Party Food

Food is a very important element in Mexico for Day of the Dead. Families spare no expense to make the favorite foods of their dearly departed who will be visiting their ofrendas to see what’s being offered! The usual celebration food is tamales, but in Oaxaca a plate of Black Mole is expected by the visiting spirits! Tamales can be wrapped in banana leaves or corn husks. Pozole is a good choice as it’s quite chilly in many parts of Mexico by November 1. Keep it simple! In most parts of the U.S., great tasting tamales are available for about one dollar at Mexican bakeries. Just heat in big steamer pots and don’t say a word… wipe your brow when guests ask if you worked all day making them and sigh… no one will know the difference!

Don’t forget the tequila, mezcal, hot chocolate, atole, champurrado and Mexican punch… and cafe de olla (coffee with cinnamon and brown sugar) for the designated drivers.

Sweets can include chocolate skulls made from our skull molds, Mexican sweet breads, candies, candied yams & cactus or the favorite dessert of the departed loved ones you are honoring.

When it’s time to serve the food, be the perfect Day of the Dead party host in a snazzy sugar skull or skeleton Apron!

Music & Party Decorations

Skeleton Papel Picado Banners are a must! Hang them up inside and outside the house. They add instant flavor. Check out our new Party Decorations!

If you have access to any children, have them paint colorful skulls and skeletons doing things to hang up for interest. If you like, we sell Coloring Cards and place mats, Rubber Stamps and Books to help inspire the young artist. Remember the glitter!

Music should be fun and lively! Mexican and salsa music fits the bill but sometimes I just play Putamayo music (my favorite is Music from the Coffee Lands). Remember, in Mexico, if there are an odd number of dancers, the odd man out has to dance with a broom!

Day of the Dead parties differ from Halloween by the use of orange marigolds, candles, copal incense and festive papel picado banners. Jack-o-lanterns have no place at this party!

Ofrenda Building

Ofrendas or altars, are the most important aspect of Day of the Dead. It’s the center piece of the home where a table is decorated with all the special things the dead spirits are to take part in. It’s filled with symbolism which varies from region to region. Ofrendas can be topped with a bamboo arch (representing the entry gate to heaven) covered in flowers, layers of shelves with room to display flowers, candles, photos, precious items of the deceased, plates of food, soda pop and other items.

Marigolds are the classic flower of the dead. Cempasuchil is the indigenous nahuatl word for the aromatic flowers but if they are not available in your area, we sell very realistic silk marigolds in orange and gold. Mixed, they look real!

free ♥ Ofrenda Info & Check List (pdf)