Literary Calaveras for the Day of the Dead

The Day of the Dead is here! There are many activities and traditions to do in this Holiday, and the one activity that I’ll write about today are the Litetary Calaveras.

Calavera means skeleton in Spanish and it’s a tradition for the Day of the Dead, it’s a popular rhyme about how a person meets with Death (Usually the Lady Death, also called Katrina).This verses can be about people who are dear to you, as well as public figures, such as famous artists, politicians or a particular group of people, but they are also used to describe a political, natural or social event. When writing a Calavera you will include the traits, either qualities, abilities or personality of the person you are writing the Calavera about, thus making them unique for each person.

These rhymes originally started as ways to make fun of Death, and the earliest forms are actually epitaphs written by Jorge Manrique in the 1400’s. The first Calaveras to be published where in the form of cartoons that came with verses depicting the cause of death in a joyous manner.

I know it may sound a little bit creepy and you may think “who would want to write about how someone dies?” But remember these verses are written with a light heart and are usually irreverent, clever, and fun. It is a custom on the Day of the Dead to write these in honor to someone who is alive, and the intention is to amuse people by making verses about someone we like. It is usually apreciated when someone has the time and patience to write a Calavera about you :).

Being verses that anyone can write about anyone, the possibilities are endless! One very common story is that Katrina (Death as it is usually depicted in the Day of the Dead) comes looking for the person we are writing about (Sometimes it’s because Katrina is jealous of that person’s qualities, others because she needs their specific talent in the other world, and others just out of pure whim and because it’s Death we’re talking about!) and after either trying to make a bargain with Death, or being caught in a trap set by her, or one way or another, that person ends up in Katrina’s company! But like I said, it all depends on the style of the writer…

So now that you know what Calaveras are why don’t you try writing some for your friends and family? You can make a Calavera contest at home and award the funniest ones!

Have a happy Day of the Dead everyone ;)!


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