One of Yucatán’s most important celebrations takes place at the end of October and the beginning of November. Hanal Pixán (food or feast for souls) is a celebration that consists of both visiting cemeteries and preparing altars at home with food and drink for the souls of those who departed before us. You too can celebrate this special occasion, wherever you are.
A few weeks in advance, you’ll need to prepare a white embroidered tablecloth, pictures of your deceased loved ones, a green wooden cross, candles (white ones for adults and brightly colored ones for children), Jícaras (dried gourds that are used as cups), flowers, bread, fruit, and sweets, as well as whatever food and drink they loved best. This is done to celebrate children on October 31, adults on November 1, and All Saints on November 2, because those are the days when they’re granted “permission” to visit us. In some communities, the celebration is also repeated eight days later.
If you are outside of Yucatán or if you’re new to the region, you can incorporate Hanal Pixán into your new home. All you need is to prepare a space, set a table, and gather the elements mentioned above. The wooden cross is important because it represents the Ceiba tree, which in the Maya worldview symbolizes the universe and its division into three levels. Some items, such as a glass of water and salt, are kept throughout the day, while the dishes offered during breakfast, lunch, and dinner have to be changed. They’re supposed to be left out for several hours and then removed from the table to be consumed by the living. It is believed that spirits come to eat and take the essence of what they liked best in life.
On October 31, which is the day dedicated to children, you can place candied Pepita, toys, and the famous Xec fruit salad (prepared with citrus fruits and chopped jicama) on your altar. Don’t forget to light the colored candles. On November 1 and 2, dedicated to adults and to All Saints, bread and a Jícara of hot chocolate are served during breakfast or dinner. For lunch, which is the most important meal of the day in Yucatán, the highlight is the traditional Mucbilpollo or Pib, in addition to any other of the deceased family member’s favorite dishes, such as Relleno Negro or Escabeche. Don’t forget to light the white candles to help guide their way.
“Pib” refers to the traditional method of cooking Mucbilpollos and Cochinita Pibil. It consists of digging a hole in the ground and placing firewood and stones at the bottom, these will cook the Pib that is covered with banana leaves and soil. Whether round or square, with Espelón beans, chicken, or three kinds of meat (beef, chicken, and pork), Pib is the most awaited dish of the season. We encourage you to experience the tradition of honoring the deceased wherever you may be.
Editorial by Violeta H. Cantarell
Born in Mérida, Violeta is a communicologist dedicated to writing and creating content on tourism, fashion, and entrepreneurship. She has recently started working as an English-Spanish translator.
Photography by Yucatán Today, Juan Manuel Mier, and Terán y Cassie Pearse for use in Yucatán Today.
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