DIA DE LOS MUERTOS - DAY OF THE DEAD - AMERICA'S NEWEST HOLIDAY
My company, Reign Trading Company, embraces all that I enjoy about Mexico – travel, teaching, writing, research, working with artists and sharing my love of Day of the Dead with folks north of the border. The best Day of the Dead folk art is featured on this website as well as the complete line of original Mexican sugar skull molds™ which we created, sculpted and manufactured in California.
I've been selling Mexican folk art since 1979. I've worked with indigenous Indians in Oaxaca, sold hand made Mexican crafts at wholesale in trade shows, had a folk art gallery in Studio City, wrote a book on Mexican Calendar Girls and run the largest Day of the Dead Internet company in the world since 1999! We wholesale and retail over 1000 items used to celebrate Day of the Dead.
Our Day of the Dead events page on our website, posts events from all over the US and many foreign countries. While a majority of Day of the Dead public events are held between San Antonio and Los Angeles, there are thousands of schools across the country that teach Day of the Dead as part of a multi-cultural curriculum. It's not just the Catholic churches & schools that explain the history of All Souls and All Saint's Day, but we get orders for books, sugar skull molds, papel picado and folk art from Baptists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists and Unitarian Universalist churches.
Every year we get phone calls from customers that weave Day of the Dead into their psychotherapy & grief counseling, prison art programs, tattoo parlors, Senior living art programs, catering & restaurants decorations, after school rec programs, museum & library events, TV and movie set decorators, and chocolatiers.
After we started selling Day of the Dead themed wedding items about 10 years ago, it has become a popular trend for Latinos and non-Latinos alike. Day of the Dead is such an endeared holiday that embraces the cycle of life, the transformation of life to death and "amor eterno" - eternal love… Here in the US, where most Day of the Dead lovers have never experienced the holiday in the villages of Mexico, it's interesting to see how the holiday morphs and evolves to meet the needs of a country that is demanding more meaning out of the loss of their loved ones. In the United States, it is common to see ofrenda altars built to beloved pets and in Mexico; this would never happen.
Day of the Dead is a very special, meaningful and religious holiday that Mexicans have shared with the Americans. It IS the newest American holiday! It IS a gift that has lent great meaning and spirituality to Americans who hungrily embrace the belief that the spirits of one's dead loved ones will return to visit with the living for a fleeting day, just once a year on November 1 & 2. The spirits will enjoy and partake of the foods, treats & special items left on the ofrendas in the family home.
Day of the Dead has no connection or common origin with Halloween, although it is celebrated right after October 31. It's a holiday that is religious in origin although jazzed up in the Southern Mexican states that have large indigenous populations. It's origins there are a mix of pre-Conquest beliefs of the dead and a synchronism of imported Catholic beliefs from Europe that came to Mexico in the 16th century.
Day of the Dead is now celebrated in homes & public spaces in all 50 states of the US; and part of it's popularity is the tradition of doing things to express one's love for their dead - folks enjoy having Day of the Dead parties as an alternative to Halloween parties (which most people can't even explain why they are celebrating)… folks like decorating sugar skulls which represent a departed soul. Food plays a big part in this holiday - especially tamales, pozole, mole, pan de muerto (bread) and other delicious foods the spirits will like to enjoy with their family. Art projects are a big part of celebrating the holiday. Even Farmer's Markets around the country have stalls with Day of the Dead foods & merchandise.
Day of the Dead is a time to ENJOY LIFE and share the stories & memories of the dead with the younger generation. While it's a time of music and dancing, it's also a time of reflection and introspection. It's a time to feel close to the dead and still learn from them. The true essence of Day of the Dead is a gift from Mexico which is appreciated by a growing number of people in the U.S. and beyond. Perhaps it is the non-commercialization that is attractive. Folks need an excuse to talk about their dead in a fun & easy atmosphere with art, food, music and activities with their kids and family. One doesn't need to be Latino to love the holiday.
Culturally open-minded Anglos have always supported the ethnic folk arts around the globe…. That's why the British Museum is so huge, with collections going back to the 1600's. It's the Anglos in North America and Europe that keep the folk artists from becoming extinct in Mexico, through their purchases & collections. Mexico's fine travel industry (2nd largest industry second to petroleum) has been exposing Yanks to beautiful folk art, food and music since the early 20th century when the Pan American Highway was completed as an artery for tourists to enjoy their lovely countryside & hospitality. Travel in Mexico created such appreciation for the folk arts and the cultural holidays but it's the first, second and third generation Mexicans that live in the U.S. that keep the holiday beliefs true and appreciation growing. Mexicans always share their warm, family orientated holidays with visitors with their celebrations, color, music and delicious regional foods. Non-Latinos are frequently curious about Day of the Dead upon first exposure and don't quite know what to think. But many realize the concepts are universal and find ways to embrace the holiday within their personal belief system & religion. Some just want to enjoy the fun of it all from a multi-cultural perspective. Here is a comment left on our Sugar Skull Fans Facebook page:
Thanks for having a page, and selling the molds. my mother, not Mexican, loved the culture of Mexico. While i lived here in San Diego, and she lived in Connecticut, she would ask me to look in stores around SD, find Día de Los Muertos items. She's passed on now and i will be visiting Connecticut during Día de Los Muertos. Time to make more sugar skulls!!!
In honor of El Día de Los Muertos, Kitchen Sisters intern, Lauren Benichou made this short documentary film (her very first) about making, assembling and decorating sugar skulls. Enjoy!
Our Facebook fans come from over 45 countries. Day of the Dead has been celebrated in Los Angeles since the first public celebration at Self-Help Graphics in the mid 1960's about 45 years ago. This holiday has grown so much because it still is a home-grown celebration. It has a public face of fun, public events, festivals & processions, but it also has a private face where hundreds of thousands of home celebrations take place with ofrenda building and family gatherings. Many immigrant workers return to Mexico to be with their muertos, leaving their jobs vacant for several weeks, because they wouldn't feel right being away.
We love this holiday and all the customers, teachers & students who want to understand it. No order leaves my warehouse without a full Day of the Dead History Sheet in every box. I want my customers to enjoy real hand made folk art and lovely heartfelt celebrations. We urge Latinos and Anglos alike to get out and support all the Day of the Dead festivities, gallery exhibits, museum events and help the schools teach this multicultural holiday.
Enjoy our sites and contact us if you have any questions!
Angela Villalba, owner
Reign Trading Company
Please explore our Day of the Dead scrapbook and History of Day of the Dead & the Sugar Skull Tradition
Angela explores Festive Mexican Sugar Skulls on the Food Network's Food Finds, hosted by Sandra Pinckney.
Angela Villalba, owner of Reign Trading Co. holds a fabulous sugar skull at the Feria de Alfinique in Metepec, Mexico. She's frequently found at Mexican flea markets, artist's homes and photographing Mexican celebrations.
Robert Terry, our accountant, trouble-shooter and construction guy. He's also Angela's father!
Tacuba, our company's mascot and constant "pain in the ass" cat, is poised to eat newly received papier mache skulls or munch on pelspan peanuts. She's a Bengal cat.
Reign Trading Company
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 768 Sebastopol, CA 95473
Office hours – 10:00am - 6:00pm [PST - Pacific time], Monday to Friday