How to throw a Day of the Dead party *
Unless you're a hardcore fan of the year's spookiest festival, chances are you'll be feeling a little jaded by Halloween by the time it actually rolls around. The shops are bursting with witches' hats and false fangs, pumpkins are piling up in the vegetable aisles, and with it all comes the promise of darkness, cold and rain. If you want a more unusual way to get into the magical mood, take inspiration from Mexico's beautifully macabre Dia de los Muertos or 'Day of the Dead'. Running from the 1st to the 2nd November, this annual event puts a positive spin on death, celebrating loved ones who have passed away with parties, food and games.
Dead good decor
Symbolic of the coming afterlife, skulls feature prominently in Day of the Dead celebrations. Whimsical and bright rather than gruesome, you'll find these colourful designs on streamers, masks and other party accessories. Sugar skulls are a central part of the festival, and serve as sweets and decorations, particularly on the altars. Building an altar is one of the most important traditions, so keep your celebrations light by constructing one in honour of a childhood pet, a celebrity or your favourite fictional character. Decorate with flowers such as marigolds, which represent death in Mexican culture, candles, the deceased's favourite foods, and any other serious or silly objects you associate with them.
A Halloween fancy dress costume from very.co.uk will work for Day of the Dead, but you can also introduce a Latin theme with colourful skirts and black suits, accessorised with more skulls. Face paint is essential, so have this ready for your guests to apply on arrival. Even a basic skull will look dramatic, but you can try your hand at these stunning designs if you're feeling more artistic.
With Halloween taking over the shops, you should have no trouble finding skull-shaped sweets, cakes and treats. For a more filling feast, you can build on the Mexican theme with nachos, burritos and assemble-your-own fajitas. Kitchen whizzes can try out this recipe for traditional pan de muertos, or 'bread of the dead'. As for drinks, keep it traditional with tequila and margaritas, and kids or teetotallers can try these non-alcoholic versions.
Get your guests in the party mood by playing some Latin music as they arrive. Everyone loves Shakira and Ricky Martin, but for something less obvious a quick perusal of the Billboard Latin Music Chart should lead you to suitable tunes. Once the altar is assembled and your revellers are fed, it's time to try out traditional 'calaveras literarias'. These are humorous poems designed to honour the dead by poking fun at them. Create a few individually or as a group and recite the best to the deceased's altar. In Mexican tradition these light-hearted anecdotes are used to pass family history down through the generations.
Remember that the Day of the Dead is supposed to be a celebration, so whether you go all-out or just use a few ideas, it's all about having as much fun as possible!