One of the most awaited Yucatán festivities is finally upon us: Janal Pixan (one of the most family-friendly celebrations we have). While Janal Pixán is usually October 31 to November 2, you can start feeling the festive atmosphere more or less a week in advance. Always keen to learn, children are among the first to get excited; even more so if you involve them in the preparations and activities.
1. An altar at home (and school)
The altar is one of the essential elements of Janal Pixan. It’s usually set up at home, but at local schools, every class usually gets organized to make one. There are two types of altars: one for the souls of children (celebrated on October 31), and one for those of adults (November 1). The former is very colorful and features toys, colored candles, candy, pictures, and Xpujuc (yellow) and Xté (red) flowers. The latter, more austere, uses white candles and tablecloth, a three-course meal, and objects the dearly departed used to appreciate.
In my family, everyone, regardless of age, are expected to participate in putting the altar together. This is a great opportunity to teach the children about their ancestors and what they liked, since there’s always the natural question of “who was this?” when they come across the picture of someone they don’t know (or only knew in their later years), or “can I have a piece of this chocolate?” whenever they spot an aunt’s favorite treat laid on the altar. This is also a good time to explain the symbolism behind each element.
Keep an eye on the children. There aren’t usually any sharp objects around, and the food should be harmless, but the tablecloth and Jícaras (containers with food and drinks) could be involved in an accident.
2. Family Pibes
Pibes or Mucbilpollos are never missing from our table or altar. But what is a Pib? Let me explain so you can tell the little ones about this cultural element. Pib is a delicacy we usually describe as a giant Tamal, traditionally baked underground. At my Chichí’s (grandma) house we’ve been making our own for a very long time, and all of the family gets involved. I should note that we use a regular oven. Still, it’s a unique experience that kids can take part in under adult supervision, as they can help make the Kool, shred the meat, arrange the fillings, or clean the banana leaves, to name a few.
There are plenty of recipes online in case your family doesn’t have one, but, if making one yourself is off the table, you can order one in advance or visit the Feria del Pib starting on October 28.
3. Pan de Muerto time!
To tell the truth, Pan de Muerto is not from Yucatán; neither are candy skulls, though some people have incorporated them into our tradition. This delicacy is covered with sugar, has a touch of orange that I just realized existed a short time ago, and is ideally soft and fluffy. Every kid will love having at least one, probably more. No two bakeries make them alike, so you can organize a Pan de Muerto tour, or just enjoy them throughout October.
Pan de Muerto is so popular in our state that you’ve probably been seeing it around since September, though some places carry it year-round. Some options for kids to choose their own Pan de Muerto include Pan Montejo (traditionally known as Panificadora Montejo), Kike’s, and Montecristo Panadería.
4. Activities in downtown Mérida
Paseo de las Ánimas is a tour that goes from the General Cemetery to San Juan park. It’s full of altars, music, incense, Catrinas, Trovadores, and a party atmosphere. Kids will have a blast; keep your eye on them! Because this is such a beloved activity, it usually gets somewhat crowded. If you’re looking for something a little quieter, take a look at the altar display in Plaza Grande. Consider that the display is usually available one day in the morning, usually from 8 am to 12 pm.
Editorial by Olivia Camarena Cervera
Yucatecan communicologist. Your favorite Assistant Editor. Writer, blogger, and bookstagrammer in her spare time. She also experiments with TikTok.
Photography by Cassie Pearse, H. Ayuntamiento de Mérida, Yucatán today, and Alejandro Poot Molina for use in Yucatán Today.
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