Sugar skulls and beyond: Easy Day of the Dead decorations

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Día de los Muertos (also known as Day of the Dead) is a Mexican holiday celebrating the lives of loved ones who have passed away. Although Day of the Dead is celebrated at the end of October, Day of the Dead decorations focus on the use of motifs like skulls, the celebration is distinctly different from Halloween, and is instead a happy occasion for families to get together and celebrate life and death.

In honor of this colorful holiday, here are some fun Day of the Dead decorations for you to get, make and display in your home!

Sugar skull mask garland

Add a colorful accent to your walls with these easy-to-make Day of the Dead decorations: a pretty sugar skull mask garland from Paper Source. Print the free printable provided, and add some colorful paper pom-poms to make a cheerful garland that you can hang in windows, on party tables, or in your work cubicle.

MORE: Day of the Dead party food: What your Día de los Muertos menu needs

Sugar skulls are an important part of of Día de los Muertos decorations. Traditionally, sugar skulls are molded from sugar, decorated with colorful accents and then placed on altars (called ofrendas) to please the deceased spirits with a sweet treat. Sugar skull decorations are a festive addition to any Day of the Dead party.

Photo credit: P.S. Blog

Decorated front door

Because Día de los Muertos falls near Halloween on the calendar, it is easy to incorporate Day of the Dead decorations into Halloween traditions like decorating your front porch. Check out this inspiring Día de los Muertos decorated front door by Field Guide 35.

To create a Día de los Muertos front porch of your very own, use decorations like handmade tissue paper flowers, papier-mâché skulls, papel picado (intricate cut-paper flags that are strung into garlands) and votive candles placed into colorful jars or vases. Use jewel-toned decorations like purple, magenta and turquoise to make your front door festive and colorful.

Photo credit: Field Guide 35

Hanging skeletons

La Catrina is a traditional Día de los Muertos decoration that looks like a female skeleton (or skull) who wears a hat and fancy dress. In Mexico, Día de los Muertos parades feature oversized papier-mâché Catrina puppets, but you can bring the magic of La Catrina into your home with wee little hanging skeletons, like the ones found at Mami Talks.

To make your own small papier-mâché hanging skeleton, create skull and rib cage shapes out of aluminum foil and cover the skeleton with papier-mâché (strips of newspaper and flour paste). Let the papier-mâché dry completely, then paint the pieces white and draw accents on the skeleton, as desired. Add a small piece of colorful netting and lace for a skirt, and top the pretty Catrina with a fancy hat.

Photo credit: Mami Talks

Colorful flags

One of the easiest and most colorful things you can make or buy are the colorful flags — called papel picado, for pierced or pecked paper, because of the cutouts in the material. You can find them online (these ones made of plastic, so they are a little sturdier), or you can make your own with colored paper and a pair of scissors and/or hole punches.

papel picado,
Photo credit: Amazon

Day of the Dead dollar store skull

Take a quick trip to the dollar store to scoop up supplies to make your very own custom Day of the Dead decorations! Transform a plastic skull into a pretty sugar skull-inspired decoration like the one we found at The Kim Six Fix.

To transform a dollar store skull into a pretty Día de los Muertos decoration, simply paint the plastic skull white with acrylic craft paint, and then decorate it to your liking. Use colorful acrylic paints, permanent markers or paint markers, rhinestones, or whatever embellishments you like, to personalize the skull to your liking. Top the skull with a crown of faux flowers or handmade tissue paper flowers.

Photo credit: The Kim Six Fix

Día de los Muertos party ideas

If you want to throw a Día de los Muertos party, you need some amazing party inspiration! Hop on over to Michelle’s Party Plan-It to see her gorgeous Day of the Dead party and get some ideas for your own shindig.

There are so many inspiring details to use in your Día de los Muertos party. Build a multi-tiered altar-style display for party drinks and treats, and cover it with brightly-colored tablecloths. Use a a large sugar skull decoration or a vase filled with oversized tissue paper flowers as a centerpiece. Add prayer candles as accents and hang papel picado banners as a backdrop.

Photo credit: Michelle’s Party Plan-It

DIY sugar skull banner

If you are looking for a quick and simple Día de los Muertos decoration to make in an afternoon, visit Hello Little Home for a free sugar skull printable download that you can turn into a pretty DIY sugar skull banner. This is a simple project to make with kids or tweens.

For this project, you need card stock and a printer, scissors, twine, faux flowers and a hot glue gun. Simply print the printable sugar skulls, cut them out and glue them to twine, alternating with faux flowers. Use the finished banner to decorate a table ofrenda, to hang above your child’s bedroom door or to adorn your front porch.

Photo credit: Hello Little Home

Day of the Dead front door hanging wreath

Instead of a wreath, try your hand at creating a much more dramatic Day of the Dead swag for your front door. Using the directions provided at Hometalk, you can make a swag that reflects your own Día de los Muertos style.

Creating a swag is a fairly simple process, once you know the basics. To build your own swag, start with a block of floral foam and attach faux tree or floral branches to the sides of the foam block. Continue layering the swag with additional decorations, such as wired ribbon, faux flowers (or tissue paper flowers) and, of course, a Día de los Muertos-style skull as the focal point.

Photo credit: Chloe Crabtree