Any visitor to our brand can clearly see that we at Shop Stone Age are fans of the Day of the Dead (Dia de Muertos). So, why do we love this holiday so much? The answer is not as straightforward as “sugar skulls look cool” - though they certainly do! This holiday and the imagery associated with it are without question part of the multicultural fabric that makes New Mexico such an interesting and unique place to live and a great place to spread the gospel of rock climbing! But before we go any further, what is the Day of the Dead exactly?
Dia de Muertos is a Mexican national holiday that celebrates the lives and spiritual journeys of friends and relatives that have passed on. It is a time for people to reflect, pray, and celebrate those who died through private altars known as ofrendas, where one can leave food, drink, and flowers for the departed as gifts. Usually, gifts for the dead reflect things they enjoyed while they were alive (like their favorite IPA?). The Day of the Dead has its roots in the Aztec traditions of southern and central Mexico and remained a somewhat isolated, regional holiday for many years. However, as Catholicism spread in the New World, the Day of the Dead was linked to the Catholic holiday All Saints Day in order to ease the conversion of native populations. As a result, Dia de Muertos proliferated into Spanish speaking, Catholic dominated areas throughout the Americas and beyond. This cultural migration is why we see this holiday celebrated here in a border region like New Mexico, where modern geographical separations mean little when compared to cultural time scales. At this point, you may be asking, “That’s great, but where does the unique imagery come in?”
Sugar skulls (calaveras) refer to any artistic representation of skulls; however, they are generally associated with actual skulls made of sugar produced around Dia de Muertos. A common practice in cultures that celebrate the Day of the Dead is to make these skulls to be placed at the ofrendas of loved ones for them to enjoy. Over time this practice has led to the sugar skull coming to represent the personification of the holiday and a means of playfully celebrating an event that centers on subject matter that many other cultures would consider somewhat macabre. Aside from these implications culturally linked to the holiday, these skulls take on some additional meaning for us at Shop Stone Age.
Climbing themed sugar skulls have become the de facto mascot of Stone Age’s Yank-n-Yard climbing competition since 2014. Initially, Day of the Dead provided a fun, timely theme for our competition, considering our competition is held in late October and the holiday begins October 31st. However, the skulls began to take on greater significance as the Yank-n-Yard has gained increased notoriety as part of the National Cup Series. It quickly became clear that sugar skulls provided a way for team Stone Age to celebrate our local culture and bring to the forefront our sense of regional pride on a national stage. While other iterations of our climbing themed mascot have appeared in our designs in years past, the sugar skull featured in our catalog, created by artist Aaron Stromberg, became an instant success in the local community and abroad. As a result, Shop Stone Age has decided to make this design available to a larger audience year round. Check out our signature collection for t-shirts, tanks, and hoodies featuring our popular Day of the Dead sugar skull. The climber in your life is guaranteed to be psyched!