Once again, Janal Pixan knocks at our doors. During this holiday, we’re visited by the souls of the deceased who have been granted permission to visit the earthly plane to be with their loved ones. Although the celebration takes place between October 31 and November 2, coinciding with the Day of the Dead in central México, Janal Pixan could not be more unique.
Janal Pixan (“food of the souls”) is celebrated with the family. It’s an intimate festival, so you’ll find most of the altars inside homes. For Yucatecans, it means spending a couple of days in the company of relatives, children, parents and grandparents no longer with us, who will delight in the food and share the table with us. However, in families like mine, you may also find pictures of friends and pets. They too are lovingly remembered.
You might be surprised to know that each day is dedicated to a different group. The first, October 31, is for children. Compared to the following days – and their more plain, somber altars – the celebration of the children (U Hanal Palal) is full of color. On the tablecloths, embroidered in vibrant hues, you’ll see toys, colored candles, candy, pictures of the little ones, and the traditional Hanal Pixán flowers: Xpujuc (yellow) and Xtés (bright red). Note that the food placed for them should cater to their age, as they still have the palate of a child.
The second day, November 1, is dedicated to adults and is called U Hanal Nucuch Uinicoob. The altars that are put up for the adults are similar to the previous ones, but with white tablecloths, white candles, and three-course food (don’t forget the Mucbilpollo). Instead of toys, you can find things they liked in life, such as cigarettes, rum (or any other alcohol), and objects related to their hobbies. In my grandfather’s case, it will be something from his mountaineering and photography gear. If tradition is followed, you’ll find a green cross that, in addition to its Catholic meaning, represents the Maya sacred Ceiba tree.
Finally, on November 2, U Hanal Pixanoob, it is customary to visit the cemetery and attend a mass for all souls.
Editorial by Olivia Camarena
Yucatecan communicologist. Your favorite Assistant Editor. Writer, blogger, and bookstagrammer in her spare time. She also experiments with TikTok.
Photography by Iván Gabaldón for its use in Yucatán Today.
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