Hanal Pixan: The Mayan Day of the Dead

by P-Francone

The living invite the spirits of the family to return home for their favorite foods, a few hours of laughter, tears and memories.

Mayan holiday Hanal Pixan is a two day long celebration, recognized in the Peninsula de Yucatan on October 31st, when the souls of deceased children are remembered and prayed for, and November 1st, when the souls of deceased adults are prayed for and remembered.

During the celebration, traditional dishes are prepared for the spirits who are believed to return on this day. Hanal Pixan shares many similarities to the Dia de Muertos celebrations celebrated in other areas of the country, with the biggest difference being the food that is used. Alters are set up by families in their homes and graves are decorated in order to help them get closer to their deceased relatives. Items are placed on the alter for their relatives, sometimes homemade items, but also corn, bottles of liquor, photographs, cigarettes, etc.

The tablecloth that is chosen to be used on the altar is very important, and its meaning is attributed to the clouds and the Mayan belief in thirteen Heavens and nine Hell. The tablecloth is brightly colored for children and white or gray for adults. The colorful ones reflect the playful nature of children, while the plain one for adults is a sign of respect and solemnity. The food is then placed on the altar.

Incense is used around the food and altar to make it a more pleasing destination for the spirits, coaxing them to come and join their families at the celebrations. Salt and water, which have significance having to do with the origin of life and death is left out with the food in a small clay bowl. The combination is part of a purification ritual, keeping the soul away from evil.

In Mayan tradition people die three deaths. The first death is when our bodies cease to function; when our hearts no longer beat of their own accord, when our gaze no longer has depth or weight, when the space we occupy slowly loses its meaning. The second death comes when the body is lowered into the ground, returned to mother earth, out of sight. The third death, the most definitive death, is when there is no one left alive to remember us.

Read more:

What is Hanal Pixan? | About.com

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