The hanal pixán, or “meal of the souls (comida de las ánimas)”, is a tradition of the Maya people celebrated to remember in a special way the friends and relatives who have gone before them on their eternal journey. It is a special event for the relatives of the deceased, as they know that during these days, from October 31st to November 2nd, the souls “receive permission” to visit their relatives.
The first day is dedicated to the children and is called u hanal palal. The second day, November 1st, is dedicated to the dead adults and is called u hanal nucuch uinicoob, and the third day is u hanal pixanoob called in some places misa pixán, because on that day a mass dedicated to the souls is held, usually in the town’s cemetery.
The tradition includes several ceremonies, but the main one consists of setting a table that functions as an altar, lit with wax candles, under the trees in the courtyard and near the graves of the relatives, where typical food of the season is placed. It is also decorated with candles, flowers, branches of rue and photographs of the deceased.
On the day of the deceased children, the altar is decorated with an embroidered tablecloth in cheerful tones, on which are placed, besides the food, sweets and toys, and it is decorated with xpujuc flowers (of wild type and yellow color), xtés in red color and virginias.
These items spend the whole night of November 1st to 2nd, in those small altars, under the trees. And when the souls of the deceased “have taken the grace”, the relatives of the deceased eat the mucbipollos and the pibinales, and drink the atole and the balché.
A week later, the bix (ochovario del día de finados, it is also said of the meeting or party that takes place eight days after some event) or octava, which is a kind of repetition less complicated than the previous one. In the nights of those days, in the doors of the houses and in the albarradas they are lighted rows of candles so that the souls see their way when coming and when retiring of the population at the end of the departed ones.
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