A calaverais a representation of a human skull. The term is most often applied to edible or decorative skulls made (usually by hand) from either sugar (called Alfeñiques) or clay that are used in the Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead (Spanish: Día de Muertos) and the Roman Catholic holiday All Souls' Day. Calavera can also refer to any artistic representations of skulls, such as the lithographs of José Guadalupe Posada. The most widely known calaveras are created with cane sugar and are decorated with items such as colored foil, icing, beads, and feathers. They range in multiple colors.
Traditional methods for producing calaveras have been in use since the 1630s. The skulls are created either for children or as offerings to be placed on altars known as ofrendas for the Día de Muertos, which has roots in the Aztec, Mayan, and Toltec cultural celebration of the Day of the Dead.
The tradition of sugar skulls is for families to decorate their loved ones' ofrendas with both large and small handmade sugar skulls. Children who have died, represented by small sugar skulls, are celebrated on November 1. The larger sugar skulls represent the adults, whose celebration takes place on November 2. It is believed that the departed return home to enjoy the offering on the altar.
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