Day of the Dead in Izamal: Hanal Pixán

If you walk around town during these days, you are sure to smell the mouth-watering aroma of Hanal Pixán, the famous feast for the dead, wafting out of kitchens across the Yucatan.

Among the many customs of the Mayan people, the tradition of Hanal Pixán endures. It is a feast for the spirits that starts on October 31st with U Hanal Palal, the day when the spirits of children arrive. An offering is set on a colorful altar bursting with candy, fruit, and toys. Tamales, atole nuevo (a corn-based drink consumed cold), yucca with honey, and chocolate are prepared for the occasion. Yellow and red wildflowers and purple spiderwort add the vibrant finishing touch.

Then, on November 1st, comes U Hanal Nucuch Uinicoob. In area homes, everything is ready to set out the food that the deceased preferred in life and the holiday’s signature dishes. There is bound to be atole nuevo to drink; papaya, coconut, and pumpkin seed candy; xpelón tamales made with the black beans of the same name mixed with a thin layer of corn dough and filled with chicken, turkey, or pork, then wrapped in banana leaves and steamed; fruit, and a special dish: mucbipollo (similar to tamales, but larger and traditionally steamed in pits in the ground).

On this day, the pictures of the dead are placed on the altar, and it is decorated with flowers and branches of rue and lit with candles. Sometimes even drinks and cigarettes are laid out if they were favored by the dead.

On November 2nd, U Hanal Pixanoob or pixán mass is celebrated. It is dedicated to the dead in the cemetery. As in other parts of the country, in some homes a small altar is set up and filled with food for the forgotten dead or those who do not have families. They are called loudly to come and try their food.




Izamal, Yuc., México

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