Dia de Los Muertos, Hanal Pixan, and Halloween

In Canada and the USA, October 31st is Halloween.  A day when kids young and old can dress in their favorite costumes and collect a jack-o’-lantern full of candy from their neighbors.  It is also unofficially the favorite holiday for dentists.

Mexicans really step it up to another level. In addition to celebrating Halloween, they also celebrate All Saints Day and All Souls day, a national holiday that is often called Dia de Los Muertos (day of the dead).   Dia de Los Muertos is a cultural celebration that combines Aztec rituals with Catholicism. In the Yucatan, the celebration has a Mayan heritage and is known as Hanal Pixan (food for the souls).  During Hanal Pixan, Yucatecans dress traditionally, men in guayaberas and women in Huipil.  They prepare the favorite foods and treats of their beloved deceased in a belief that their souls come back to share and celebrate with them.

Over the holiday, shops sell candies in the form of coffins, skeletons, and other macabre symbols.  Families make a trip to the cemetery to honor their dead relatives, and the Catholic church commemorates the holiday by praying for the souls of the deceased.

Of course this wouldn’t be Mexico without fiestas.  We were invited to several.  Our community hosted its own with a pumpkin piñata to boot.  It is so easy to pick the Canadian kids out of the group because they were dressed as a fireman, a mermaid and an homemade octopus (although Rachel looked more like The Joker).  The Mexican kids almost unilaterally dress as deathly looking witches, grim reapers, skeletons and Catrina look-alikes (like Rachel’s friend Malayca in the photo).

Truthfully, there are some elements of this holiday that don’t sit well with Darcy and me.   Having said that, part of why we came down was to experience a new culture and better understand their beliefs.  We are getting our money’s worth, even tasting a few hot chili flavored candies along the way.

Rachel Malyka and Jac at Haloween