Monday, October 24, 2011

Death Rattle

For the last several years Aaron and I have been hosting a Day of the Dead dinner for our friends and family. Once a year we take a moment to laugh and reminisce about loved ones who’ve passed on. Over time, the guests at the dinner table have continued to grow. It’s a merry occasion, not a somber one, and a chance for all of us to learn about those no longer with us, and how they’ve shaped our lives.  

 At themed dinners, or dinners for a holiday or special occasion, I often like to provide party favors for our guests. Last year, on Dia De Los Muertos, I made these “death rattles” as place markers and gifts. They’re festive, fun, and add a touch of whimsy to the table (kids will love them!). Your guests will have something to take away from the dinner (besides their full bellies) as a keepsake and a memory of the occasion itself. You can continue to use these as Halloween or Day of the Dead d├ęcor for years to come!

Here’s how I made ‘em:
  • Pick up some small paper mache globe ornaments from the craft store and remove the string. 
  • Drill a hole using a 3/16” drill bit, where the string had been, big enough (but not too big!) to snuggly fit a wooden dowel into the paper mache globe.
  • Use a small hacksaw to cut the dowel to the appropriate length (about 8 inches).
  • Paint the globes with two coats of off-white paint. 
  • Draw a face on the globes using a fine tip permanent marker. 
  • Take about ¼ teaspoon of dried rice and put it inside the globe, through the drilled hole to create the “rattle” noise.
  • Insert the dowel into the hole- it should fit tight enough so that you don’t have to use glue (the rice would stick to the glue). If need be, place a little hot-glue where the head meets the dowel.
  • To make the top hats, use stiff black felt and cut two circles, one for the top of the hat and one slightly larger for the brim (or buy small top hats at the craft store if you can find them). 
  • Cut a long rectangle piece of felt long enough to fit the circumference of the top circle. 
  • Assemble the hat using hot glue. 
  • Glue a small feather to the side of the hat. 
  • Use black ribbon to create a sash around the brim. 
  • Attach the hat to the side of the skull using hot glue. 
  • Use the same black ribbon to tie around the dowel to make the “bow tie.” 
And there you have it- a death rattle to charm your Halloween or Day of the Dead inspired table!  


  1. I love this idea! Dia de los Muertos has always fascinated me. Have you ever tried making the sugar skull candies?
    Tim's Mom

  2. Hi Colleen! I have made them- they're so easy and fun to decorate. You can find molds for them online.