La Calavera Catrina

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The most famous symbols of Día de los Muertos are calacas (skeletons) and calaveras (skulls). Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a deeply traditional and respectful celebration that focuses on the bright side of death.

La Calavera Catrina sugar skull makeup red rose crown headpiece

Dressing as a “Catrina” is a popular costume in Día de los Muertos celebrations. Catrinas typically feature “sugar skull” make-up.

La Calavera Catrina in front of an altar ofrenda with snow on ground

Who is Catrina and what does she represent?

The most popular calavera of all is La Calavera Catrina. You might have seen the famous drawing by Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada. She is a skeleton lady who is elegant and well-dressed, wearing an extravagantly feathered hat — she represents rich people. Posada took his inspiration from Mictecacihuatl, goddess of death and Lady of Mictlan, the underworld.

La Calavera Catrina sugar skull makeup sitting on vintage peacock wicker chair

The drawing was meant to be sarcastic to portray that we are all equal in death. She has become the most iconic symbol of Día de los Muertos.

La Calavera Catrina sugar skull makeup gold rose crown headpiece and paloma embroidered dress

La Catrina reminds me of a saying my grandma used to say, and now my mom often says it, “It doesn’t matter how much money you have on earth, because you can’t take it with you when you die.”

La Calavera Catrina sugar skull makeup dried flower crown headpiece

I have celebrated Día de los Muertos for close to 10 years honoring my grandma, the matriarch of our family, and honoring other close family and friends who have passed away since then.

altar ofrenda elements for day of the dead dia de Los Muertos photographs marigolds candles

Dressing like a catrina was very spiritual and healing for me. Every time I saw my reflection in the mirror I didn’t recognize myself. As the evening went on I was reminded to live my true self. Not to pretend to be someone I am not. No matter what we all look like and where we come from, we all end up a skeleton in the end.

altar ofrenda elements for day of the dead dia de Los Muertos photographs marigolds candles fruits sugar skulls

catrina makeup dress dia de Los Muertos sitting on vintage chair

Why is La Catrina important?

In the legend, the goddess served the same purpose as La Catrina does today: to honor and protect those who have passed and to symbolize the relationship Mexicans have with death.

altar ofrenda elements water fruit flowers food photographs candles sugar skulls

Honor your loved ones who have passed away

Día de los Muertos is a holiday rich in culture and history and manifests itself in bright and visual ways and the tone is positive – it is a time to pray and remember friends and family who have passed away, not to grieve. But to remember them at their best with the hope that the deceased soul will hear these prayers and celebrations made just for them.

incense sage day of the dead altar elements

Loud and vibrant celebration

Behind all the color and good humor – is serious belief. It’s a belief that the souls of the departed are still around and needing waking up. This is the reason for the bright costumes, music, prayers, and stories – it’s all meant to be picked up by the spirits.

pan de muerto for day of the dead dia de Los Muertos

marigolds on ground for day of the dead

papel picado for Catrina day of dead lady wearing black on a path lined with marigolds

Food and decor

The foods, the decorations, and the candles are designed to entice the spirit back. To spend that short amount of time with their loved ones who remain on earth.

food and decor for day of the dead photographs

papel picado for day of dead

The favorite foods of the departed and traditional marigold flowers are for exactly the same reason – to help them return home.

papel picado for Catrina day of dead lady wearing black on a path lined with marigolds

Calavera Catrina papel picado for day of dead lady wearing black dress and red rose crown holding pan de Muerto on a path lined with marigolds

It is believed that the spirits consume the essence of the food and drinks – Then those celebrating can eat the food afterwards.

Calavera Catrina papel picado for day of dead lady wearing black dress and red rose crown holding basket filled with marigolds

Are you wanting to celebrate the holiday, but not sure how or where to start?

These articles might help you understand this amazing tradition:

day of the dead altar elements

Calavera Catrina day of dead lady wearing black dress and red rose crown holding basket of marigolds

Thank you to everyone involved on this shoot. I couldn’t have done it without you.

la Calavera Catrina holding wine glass papel picado in the background and marigolds

Design, Styling & Floral Design: Donna Luna and Juliet Luna / Photography: Jenna Sparks / Location: Private Ravenna home (Ivette Dominguez Drawe) / Landscape: Flora Distinctive Landscapes / Papel Picado (perforated paper): Mesa Chic / Paloma Dress: Nativa Shop / Black Dress: Goodwill / Red Headpiece & Dried Flower Headpiece: Anel Sancen / Gold Headpiece: Headpiece Heiress / Pan Dulce (sweet bread): Panaderia San Antonio / Hair & Makeup: Barbie Gallegos / Fruit & Flowers: Kroger / Florist: Amato’s Wholesale Florists / Business Manager: Johanna Voss