Celebrate Dia de Los Muertos en La Primavera with Easy Spring DIYs

Add a little Day of the Dead color to your springtime. All image: Lisa Tate.

Pixar’s beautiful animated feature Coco has been released on Blu Ray and DVD this week, just in time for Dia de los Muertos….in eight months.

The fall observance of (Dia de los Muertos) Day of the Dead actually has much in common with our many springtime celebrations.

If you’re looking forward the changing of the seasons and the Vernal Equinox, bright, lively colors and flowers play prominently in Dia de los Muertos decorations and altars, if you celebrate Easter, Day of the Dead gives up hope of life beyond death. Although there are dietary restrictions in a Passover Seder that may exclude Dia de los Muertos favorites like Pan de Muerto bread, the time for families to be together is important.

However, it’s hard to find Catrinas and marigolds in the spring, as stores are filled with
“spring things” like Easter bunnies, chicks, eggs, and pastel-colored flowers. Like these:

This is fine because all it takes are a few simple repaints and DIY tricks to make the perfect Springtime/Day of the Dead mash-up crafts.

Calaveras

Lace some embroidery thread through a hollowed-out egg, for an easy way to hang and display your design.

Calaveras are the decorative skulls adorning Day of the Dead altars. The sugar skulls Calaveras are also made in a similar method to the sugar eggs sometimes seen in Easter baskets. A plastic egg (or real, hollowed out egg) can be easily repainted to resemble an ornate sugar skull, by adding a face, some glue-on jewels, and tissue paper flowers. In both Easter and Passover, the egg is a symbol of rebirth, so this makes for an interesting intersection of life and death.

La Catrina

The well-adorned leading lady of Dia de los Muertos is often seen in her high-class frilly dress and hat. It’s almost as if she’s ready for an Easter parade. Turn any cute little spring dollar store figure into a Catrina, by painting it black, and adding a skeleton design. You can add a flower crown or had to make it more festive.

The Tree of Life (Arbol de la Vida)

This Mexican pottery sculpture’s origins include depictions of Adam and Eve and their temptation by the serpent. Today, it is often seen with Day of the Dead displays, adorned with signs of life such as flowers and birds, along with skeletons or little Calaveras — a perfect spring and Dia de los Muertos mash-up!

Make these by using half a plastic egg as a base. Take three chenille craft stems (pipe cleaners) and fold them in half, push them through the little “air holes” at the end of the plastic egg, then shape them into a little “tree,”  as shown as shown below. These eggs usually have two little holes on each end, but if you have one that doesn’t, you can carefully make you our own with a small screwdriver.

Build your tree. Top, left to right: Lace first pipe cleaner through an egg, twist two halves together about halfway up, make a loop with each end and twist together, fold remaining ends over for the top of the tree. Bottom, left to right: Lace second pipe cleaner same as the first one. Make a loop with each side and twist remaining ends around the “trunk” of the three once, make a second loop with remaining pipe cleaner.

You can use spray paint or craft paint to color it, as well as make the craft stems more sturdy. The tree doesn’t have to be brown. Bright colors are just fine, especially this time of year.

Now, add small skull beads (or make your own by adding a skull face to a wooden bead), little silk flowers (of use small bits of wadded tissue paper), and other small trinkets (even little, colored eggs) that represent some of your favorite things in life. Whatever you find to put on it, make it colorful.

Alebrijes

These carved folk art fantasy figures, most common with the Oaxaca region. They started in the 1930s when an had fever-induced dreams of wonderful mismatched animals of bright colors and designs. Today, this dreamy is still popular in Mexican folk art, and the alebrijes in Coco acted as guardian angels and a link between the worlds of the living and dead.

Spring and Easter animals can be repainted to resemble these as well. First, make some extras to your figure, like cardboard wings or horns (add these with a glue gun, once you are done painting), then paint it with three or four solid, bright colors. Once dry, add more colorful designs like dots, stripes, or anything else you can think of. Make these fun and crazy, there more color the better.

Three step process to make any animal figure an alebrije. First, cut wings, horns or other estras (I used cardboard for wings and a toothpick for horns). Second, add bright solid colors. Third, add colorful, busy designs.

Spring and new life are budding all around us, and even thought Dia de los Muertos isn’t until November, celebrate those family, friends and loved ones who are no longer here in the land of the living from Coco when they ask, “Remember Me.”

Filed Under: DIY
Tags: