Hanal Pixan is the Mayan name of the celebration for the day of the dead (Hanal: Food, Pixan: souls). This celebration is held in the state of Yucatan, in cities and towns of Mayan origin and influence.
The Hanal Pixan festivities last several days, starting on October 31st to commemorate the deceased children, the first of November is for adults and finally the 2nd is a celebration for all saints.
The popular belief stipulates that the souls visit their relatives during these days because they are permitted to exit the realm of the dead for the day. The souls visit the shrines and enjoy their favorite foods and drinks.
This celebration takes place all over the country, with different variations, but it is always a joyful way to remember our loved ones.
Hanal Pixan is the only Mayan ritual that we keep celebrating every year and is characterized by the preparation of pib: a chicken or pork tamale with beans that is baked under the ground with firewood.
Installing and decorating the altars is a celebration at home, from which all members can participate. Even if it you're not Mexican or Mayan, you certainly can arrange a small altar at home and be part of this tradition.
The main elements that should be present at the Hanal Pixan’s altar are:
Shrine Table: It is built for the occasion by hand with branches.
Incense: It is believed it harmonizes the spirits. It is also believed that the food is consumed in a spiritual way leaving only the physical form.
Salt and Water: These are put in jicaras and their meaning is related with the beginning and end of life. These elements also have the function of guiding the souls back to the other world, so that they are not trapped in this one.
Green Cross: This is made of wood and is known as Yaxche, personifies the center of rotation of the cosmos, is the tree of life.
The altars for children are usually more colorful and include toys, while that of adults can have cigars and liquors.