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Exploring the Origins of Halloween + Folk Art Projects

We first began researching the origins of Halloween the year Elodie chose to be la Catrina (Day of the Dead lady). She also convinced her big brother to dress as a dead mariachi player that year, and I was psyched! This was a great opportunity for us to look into the Mexican traditions for this time of year. Our research also brought us to the Celtic Samhain as well as folk art from Mexico and around the world.

We began our folk art adventure with Folk Art Fusion by Heather Galler. We LOVE the prompts in this book! We started with some landscape designs and are working our way through. The book includes folk art from Mexico, China, Russia, Sweden and others -- projects for the whole year.

Each painting is broken down into steps, making it easy for everyone to enjoy. We also found these prompts are a great springboard for creating something totally unique. For example, Elodie's super creepy nesting dolls:

The vibrant colors of Day of the Dead in Mexico are so striking. The expressive and inspired designs are my favorite! In my opinion, Day of the Dead is the epitome of everything awesome about folk art. I think Elodie was also drawn to Day of the Dead because it's spooky and pretty: her ideal Halloween combo. Scroll through a few of our Day of the Dead art projects below.

La Catrina Peg Doll


Wooden peg doll

Acrylic paint

Glue of your choice

Tiny pine cones, beads, pompoms, dried or silk flowers, etc.


Paint your peg doll, starting with the white head and black body and let dry. Then add the face, ribs and other decorations. Once completely dry, add your flower crown with glue. We used hot glue and Tacky glue. We painted a few tiny pine cones and filled in the crown with little beads, but pompoms or little flowers would be awesome.

Calavera Collage


Card stock

Scraps of ribbon, pipe cleaners, felt, etc.



Craft jewels




Cut out your skull and glue it to card stock. Set out lots of craft supplies, some inspiration and go for it!

Day of the Dead Embroidery Project

We saw this embroidery project on Cassie Stephens' Instagram and had to make it! She did an awesome blog post and video tutorial you can find here. It was Elodie's first try at needle felting and she did almost all of the embroidery herself. This project was really fun to make and it looks great hanging on the wall in the hoop. We will keep it as a Halloween decoration for years to come.

Sugar Skull Cookies

We used our favorite sugar cookie recipe (no chill and no waiting!), and it held up really well in the press -- impressive! I made glazes with confectioners sugar, milk and natural food dye. Elodie is in her glory with a detailed task like this, so she was busy with a teeny paintbrush adding details to the sugar skulls. They were super delicious and a good trade out for some of the candy they got that had lots of food dyes, etc.

Connecting with Ancient Autumn Magic

The Irish brought a holiday called Samhain with them to the US when they emigrated in great numbers during the 1800s. The Samhain tradition of wearing of costumes and masks carried on as American Halloween customs. In Celtic Ireland (about 2,000 years ago) Samhain was the division of the year between the light and dark. I think it's significant we have day light savings around Halloween, as it does feel as though the nights are suddenly much longer. It is believed that at Samhain (October 31 - November 2nd) the veil is lifted between our world and the "other side," allowing spirits to pass through. This is when the Celtic family's ancestors were honored and invited home while harmful spirits were warded off by wearing scary costumes and masks to disguise themselves.

Similar to Samhain, the Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday celebrating deceased loved ones -- also held from October 31 to November 2nd. The festival's origins are rooted in a combination of indigenous beliefs and Catholic teachings (it coincides with All Saints and All Souls Day). As if this Mexican holiday isn't magical enough, monarchs return en masse to Mexico during this time, as well! It is believed that ancestors arrive for the festivities upon monarch butterflies' wings. When we learned about this, we immediately hot glued monarch butterflies all over our costumes!

It was fun to connect some history and other cultures to our holiday. I think these are my favorite costumes yet. Happy Halloween, amigos!



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