Have you heard this word before? If so, probably you are already imagining a skull or a celebration of the Day of the Dead. But did it bring up the image of a car at night with its lights on? If you don't speak Mexican, it probably didn't.

In Mexican Spanish, one of the meanings of calavera has nothing to do with skulls and everything to do with your car.
Las calaveras are the tail lights of your vehicle. After being rear-ended, you may need to get out of your car and make sure that your calaveras are still intact.

As for its uses during the celebrations of the Day of the Dead:

  • When kids ask for their calavera or calaverita they are asking for their Day of the Dead treat. It can be money, a gift or candy.
  • Stores, markets and street vendors sell calaveras in different colours and sizes. (Candy for the Day of the Dead shaped like a skull).
  • Calaveras Literarias are verses written for the living as epitaphs during the eve of the Day of the Dead.

It is important to mention another Mexican word related to this topic: Calaca.
Una calaca can describe a human skeleton. It can refer to a skull or cranium (instead of calavera) and it can also be the personification of death.

And there you have it. Now you know that calaveras can be made out of bone or candy and that you can find them attached to your cervical spine or the rear of your car.

Deborah G.