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We have been living in San Antonio for about 6 months now and We are still discovering new things about the city and what it has to offer. We really like it here! I was very pleased to learn about the La Villita Day of the Dead Festival that took place Oct. 28.

La Villita Day of the Dead Festival in San Antonio will not disappoint. A beautiful event to honor those who have left before us.

I honestly wasn’t expecting much from the whole thing, I just wanted the kids to see a big altar and maybe do some fun crafts. Boy was I wrong!!

La Villita Day of the Dead Festival in San Antonio will not disappoint. A beautiful event to honor those who have left before us.

There was an altar contest, where schools, organizations, and artists created their own altars honoring a special person. There was also a good variety of Latino local business offering anything from jewelry, clothing to painting and pottery. Of course there was face painting and sugar skull decorating.

La Villita Day of the Dead Festival in San Antonio will not disappoint. A beautiful event to honor those who have left before us.

There were also food tents, though not many vegan options, and a tent selling pan de muerto. The live music set the mood for the whole thing, but the best part was seeing Mexican culture celebrated and honored.

La Villita Day of the Dead Festival in San Antonio will not disappoint. A beautiful event to honor those who have left before us.

The event itself was well organized and really well setup, but if you plan on going next year, be sure to get there early so you can find parking.

La Villita Day of the Dead Festival in San Antonio will not disappoint. A beautiful event to honor those who have left before us.

Unfortunately, we missed the procession that takes place in the evening, but maybe next year. I could go on, but all you need to know you can get from the beautiful pictures of the event. I hope you were able to celebrate the Day of the Dead in your own way, and share in this beautiful Mexican tradition.

La Villita Day of the Dead Festival in San Antonio will not disappoint. A beautiful event to honor those who have left before us.

La Villita Day of the Dead Festival in San Antonio will not disappoint. A beautiful event to honor those who have left before us.

La Villita Day of the Dead Festival (Festival del Día de los Muertos)

La Villita, south of the River Walk in downtown San Antonio, was originally settled nearly 300 years ago as one of the city’s first neighborhoods. In 1939, La Villita Historic Arts Village was established and the neighborhood was adapted into a center for teaching regional arts and crafts and to serve as an artists market.

Address

418 Villita
San Antonio, Texas 78205

Things are getting busy around here. Halloween is right around the corner, and so is the Day of the Dead. This has become one of our favorite family traditions, and so every year we make vegan sugar skulls, and pan de muerto for our altar. The skulls are very easy to do, and the kids really enjoy making them (the adults do too!)

Making vegan sugar skulls for the Day of the Dead is one of our favorite family traditions. The kids love it, and the adults too!!!

Last year I perfected the recipe for the vegan version of the sugar skulls, and I couldn’t be happier. Usually, the preparation requires meringue powder or egg whites, but I am using aquafaba with great results. It is definitely more affordable than using meringue powder, and you can make hummus with the chickpeas.

Making vegan sugar skulls for the Day of the Dead is one of our favorite family traditions. The kids love it, and the adults too!!!

This year I have been very conflicted. As you probably already know, el Día de los Muertos is going mainstream. I don’t know how I feel about that. A part of me is excited that more people can get to know Mexican culture, but another part of me wants to scream, ” No, this is cultural appropriation!” I don’t know, what do you think? I guess all I can do, is do my part in helping others understand the beauty of the tradition. Last year I invited some friends over to make the sugar skulls, and then we read the book The Day of the Dead by Bob Barner.

Ok, so let’s get down to business. I recorded a small video for you with the whole process.

The Recipe: Day of the Dead Vegan Sugar Skulls

We don’t usually eat the sugar skulls, but you can if you want to. We use them for decoration. I purchased my molds from mexicansugarskulls.com, way back when nobody else was selling them, but now you can easily find them on Amazon. If you live in a humid climate the sugar skulls will take longer to dry, and you will most likely have to add less aquafaba.

Making vegan sugar skulls for the Day of the Dead is one of our favorite family traditions. The kids love it, and the adults too!!!

Making vegan sugar skulls for the Day of the Dead is one of our favorite family traditions. The kids love it, and the adults too!!!
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Day of the Dead Vegan Sugar Skulls

Course Dessert
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword day of the dead, vegan sugar skulls
Total Time 2 days
Servings 5 people
Author Dora S.

Ingredients

Skulls:

  • 6 cups Sugar, granulated
  • 4 tbsp. Aquafaba, (liquid from can of chickpeas)

Royal Icing:

  • 3 floz. (1/3 cup + 1 tbsp.) Aquafaba
  • 4-5 cups Powdered Sugar
  • 4 Food coloring of choice

Equipment:

  • 2 Sugar skull molds- front and back
  • 5 Card board squares 4.5 X 4.5 inches
  • 4 Disposable pastry bags
  • Sequins

Preparation

Sugar Skulls

  1. In a large bowl, lightly beat the aquafaba until it starts to bubble.
  2. Pour in the sugar, and use your hand to mix well and incorporate the sugar and the aquafaba. It should have the consistency of wet sand, almost like you are going to build a sand castle.
  3. Make sure your mold is clean and dry. Press the sugar mix into the mold. Use a spoon to scoop out some of the sugar from the back of the skull. This will make the skull less heavy.
  4. Press the cardboard square against the mold and flip the mold, to have the skull facing you. Lift the mold, and carefully place the cardboard with the skull on it on a sheet tray.
  5. Repeat this process with the rest of the sugar. If you want to make a complete sugar skull use both the skull molds.
  6. Leave to dry for at least 24 hours.

Royal Icing

  1. The next day, in a large bowl, lightly beat the aquafaba until it starts to bubble. Add 4 cups of the powdered sugar and mix well. Test the consistency of the icing on a plate. It should be thick enough that it doesn’t slide down the plate easily. If it seems too thin, add 1 more cup of powdered sugar. The consistency should be considerably thicker than the icing used to decorate cookies.

  2. Separate the icing into 4 small bowls. Add your food coloring of choice and mix well.
  3. Pour each bowl of icing into a disposable piping bag. Secure with a rubber band, and cut a tiny bit off of the tip of the bag. Test the amount of icing that comes out before decorating your skull.
  4. Decorate your skull however you desire. I like to use sequins for the eyes. Let dry 24 hours.

Making a complete skull

  1. If you are making complete skulls, leave some of the royal icing white, and use it to glue the front and back of the skull, after it has dried for the initial 24 hours. After you have glued it together, let dry a bit before decorating it.

Recipe Video

Chef's Notes

If you live in a humid climate the sugar skulls will take longer to dry, and you will most likely have to add less aquafaba. The longer you let the skulls dry the better. The sugar skulls are not meant to be eaten. They are for decoration. Royal icing recipe adapted from The Blenderist.

One of the greatest things about Christmas is tradition, making new ones and reliving old ones. Traditions are a simple way of transmitting our values and our culture, making us part of history, thus becoming the glue between the past and the present. Mexican culture has many Christmas traditions, they vary from family to family and region to region, but some of them transcend all differences and have been part of the culture for centuries.

Mexican Christmas Traditions

Las Posadas:

Are part of a Roman Catholic tradition called a Novena, which in this case consists of 9 days of prayer prior to Christmas in order to obtain special graces. The passing of time and the jovial nature of the Mexican culture has transformed this tradition into 9 days of partying. Most posadas include pedir posada (reenacting the journey of Mary and Joseph trying to find a place in the Inn through song), a pastorela, the breaking of the piñata, and of course a small feast.

Mexican Christmas traditions are rich, varied, and full of symbolisms. They are passed on from generation to generation.

 

 

Las Pastorelas

Are plays or artistic representations of the story of baby Jesus. They take place in the days before Christmas, at schools, churches, or outdoor settings. They were first introduced by the Spanish missionaries in the 1500’s as a means of teaching the faith and the bible to the Indians.

The basic plot of a pastorela consists of several shepherds that are on their way to adore baby Jesus, but are discouraged by Lucifer himself. All of Lucifer’s attempts to stop the shepherds from reaching their destination fail, and they are safely able to deliver their offerings to the Christ child. Over the years the plays have been adapted to modern culture, and are funny, full of song, dance, and creative costumes. (The town of Tepotzotlan, Edo. de Mexico is famous for its pastorelas.)

Mexican Christmas traditions are rich, varied, and full of symbolisms. They are passed on from generation to generation.

La Piñata:

Is usually in the shape of a star with seven peaks, representing the 7 deadly sins. The person with the stick represents the faith, and the candy represents the temptation of evil. Pretty deep stuff! Even though the religious significance continues to get watered down through the years, the kids really enjoy it and some grown ups do too.

 

Mexican Christmas traditions are rich, varied, and full of symbolisms. They are passed on from generation to generation.

 

Nacimientos (Nativities):

Nativities were also introduced by the Spanish missionaries, but their origin can be traced back to Italy around 1223, where St. Francis of Assisi recreated the nativity with people, animals, and a little house made of straw. The live nativity tradition caught on in Europe and later evolved into figurines in people’s homes. When the nativity was adapted by the indigenous people of Mexico, it transformed into a scene of vivid color, with dark skinned characters made with materials such as glass, silver, lead, wood, or wax.

Today, nativity scenes are rarely historically accurate. They are decorated with green shrubbery, cactus, and maguey; they can have figurines like the mail man, milk man, the baker, and even the devil; and the size of baby Jesus can sometimes border on the ridiculous. Baby Jesus can almost be as large as the Mary and Joseph figurines or very, very tiny.

 

Mexican Christmas traditions are rich, varied, and full of symbolisms. They are passed on from generation to generation.

Noche Buena (Christmas Eve):

Christmas dinner in Mexico is usually celebrated on Christmas Eve, instead of Christmas day. Some families attend midnight mass, and some don’t. It is on this night when a large figurine of baby Jesus is laid down to rest in the manger and everyone adores and celebrates his birth. The dinner differs from region to region, but in our case we have turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, tamales, pozole, menudo, ponche, and beer or wine. Dessert would be buñuelos or my Tia Laura’s famous frozen cheesecake.

Mexican Christmas traditions are rich, varied, and full of symbolisms. They are passed on from generation to generation.

Mexican Christmas traditions are rich, varied, and full of symbolisms. They are passed on from generation to generation.

 

Fireworks:

Fireworks came to Mexico in the 19th century and were used (and still are) for ceremony and religious purposes. For Christmas, churches will light them after midnight mass or families set them off in their back yards to celebrate the birth of Christ.

Dia de Reyes (The Feast of the Epiphany):

Santa is becoming more popular in Mexico, especially in the border towns, but most kids get their gifts in January 6th, on the feast of the Epiphany. Traditionally the children leave a note for the Magi in their shoes, the night before, and place them under the Christmas tree or outside. The Magi respond by bringing them gifts the following morning, just as they brought gifts to the Christ child.

The Feast of the Epiphany is also commemorated with a Rosca de Reyes, an orange and anise scented king cake topped with dried and candied fruit. The fruit is meant to represent the crown´s jewels, and inside the bread is hidden a small figurine of baby Jesus. The lucky person to find baby Jesus in their piece of bread is designated to bring tamales on Feb. 2nd to the Feast of the Candelaria, but that´s another story.

Mexican Christmas traditions are rich, varied, and full of symbolisms. They are passed on from generation to generation.

Rosca de reyes mexicana|Source=commons.wikipedia|Author=Itzcuauhtli |Date=2009 |

Traditional Christmas Foods:

Tamales – Consist of seasoned corn dough (masa) filled with savory or sweet fillings, and wrapped in a corn husk or banana leaf and steamed. Their origin dates back to prehispanic times. The Aztecs, Mayans, Olmecas, and Toltecas prepared them for feasts and as a portable food.

Today they are still used in celebrations, such as Christmas. They are the ultimate comfort food for us Mexicans, well at least for me.
There are many variations, but in Coahuila, the state where I’m from, tamales are small, filled with shredded meat, seasoned with a salsa made with dried chiles, and wrapped in a corn husk.

Champurrado: Warm chocolate beverage thickened with corn flour or masa. It can also be flavored with anise, cinnamon, and vanilla. The best part of this drink is that it is made with Mexican chocolate. Mexican chocolate is basically cacao beans ground with sugar and cinnamon, this gives the champurrado a unique flavor that differs from American hot chocolate.

Ponche: Warm fruit punch containing pear, thornapple, sugar cane, guava, prunes, tamarind, orange peel, clove, and cinnamon.

Menudo: Beef tripe soup, flavored with a dried chile and garlic mixture, and served with radishes, cabbage, tostadas, lime juice oregano, and cilantro.

Pozole: Also a pre-Hispanic dish, which consists of shredded beef, hominy, a dried chile and garlic mixture, and served with cabbage, limes, tostadas, radish, cilantro, oregano, and onion.

Ensalada de Noche Buena: Christmas Eve salad made with beets, orange segments, peanuts, pomegranate, orange juice, and sugar.

Bacalao a la Vizcaina: Salt cod served in a tomato, garlic, red pepper, and olive sauce.

Buñuelos: Orange scented fritters dusted with cinnamon sugar or drizzled with a piloncillo syrup.

All these traditions are part of Mexico’s rich culture. What are some some of your favorite Christmas traditions or foods?

 

Sources:

Christmas in Mexico, World Book Encyclopedia, 1976