I'll tell you a secret. I don't really like Halloween.
Why not? Halloween has a bunch of things that I like: chocolate, taking on new identities, wigs, scary stories. Yet, when these things are added together to become the holiday we call Halloween, I start getting annoyed.
I think it's because much of the lore of Halloween has been overturned by the American desire to drink too much and coerce women into dressing like sluts ("But you can win a thousand dollars at PJ McDrinky's Pub if you come as the sluttiest medical professional!")
However, I love Dia de los Muertos, the Mexican Day of the Dead. It's a celebration that holds a lot of the mystery of the druidic Samhain, which was then co-opted by Catholicism and brought to the new world by Spain, which then blended with the indigenous holidays. Rather than simply being a cash cow for the makers of uber-short plastic skirts and high-fructose corn syrup, it's a day to remember the dead not only with sadness, but with joy.
Whew. That's a lot of ruminating to get to my point: when I went to a Halloween-themed brunch this weekend, I wanted to make some favors that had the beautiful colors and folk art feeling of Dia de los Muertos-inspired art. I know that seems kind of silly, but I think we should put care and a bit of ourselves into everything we create. Hence, I came up with the following treats:
I made my friends some little gifts in wrapping inspired by papel picado, the brightly-colored cut-paper art that adorns altars for Day of the Dead. And because I like owls, I used an owl motif. Here's how I did it, and how you can too:
- Paper sacks - you could use regular grocery sacks; I used black ones from the craft store. This would be a great way to reuse any small paper sacks you have.
- Astrobright cardstock - real papel picado is made of tissue paper or thin plastic, but you'll find tissue paper is really hard to manipulate. You could use regular construction paper, but I find the colors of Astrobright to be similar to those of authentic papel picado. (Thanks to my blog friend, Sara of Feeding the Soil, for providing me with paper when I couldn't find some - meaning I didn't have to buy more stuff for my project!)
- an Xacto or craft knife
- a glue stick
- Optional: a skull sticker or stamp
Step 1: Create a template. I freehanded mine after looking at a whole bunch of pictures of owls. If you're not a big fan of the free hand method, just right click this picture and click "Copy Image." Then just paste it into a word document. You can make it as big or small as you want, then print it and cut it out.
Step 2: Trace your template onto the Astrobright cardstock.
Step 3: Using the craft knife, cut out the owl that you traced. You should put a cutting board under your work - and of course, be careful not to cut yourself. Make sure your knife is quite sharp, or you'll have lots of little random feathery bits of paper in the edges of your cuts.
Step 4: I gave my owls a skull eye. I had a stamp of a skeleton, and I stamped it onto black paper. Then I cut it out and glued it behind the eye of the owl.
Step 5: Glue the owl to your bag!
Then you're done - easy peasy. I used the bag for treats, but you could also cut through the bag, so that there are actual holes in the paper sack. Then you could stick a battery-powered tealight inside to create a luminaria.
Coming up: How to make gourmet Halloween candies to put inside your treat bag!