Cultures and Religions

Ogni Cultura possiede le proprie norme per cio' che sia socialmente accettabile

Monday, October 31, 2011

HANAL PIXAN, The Mayan Day of the Dead

The souls are coming back! Relax, its just to visit their relatives. Yucatan is getting ready to celebrate its holiday. Hanal Pixan, literally translated as "souls' food", is known to be a great celebration here, in which Mexicans remember their dead. Hanal Pixan is celebrated the first days of November, when Mayans believed that death was not the end for a human being, but only a change of "status", or in  better words, a passage to a better life.

According to the Popol Vuh (the Mayan Bible), even in the world of the dead there was a kind of "life": the Lords of Xibalba used to play the "juego de la Pelota", or just enjoy their time as dead. Back to the living world, families here in Yucatan get ready to receive their relatives' souls back into their houses. Everybody thinks that these souls are back from the world of the dead, and they are coming back to stay around them. So, why not receiving them with love and affection as when they were alive? People in their homes create altars, made of leafs and flowers, and decorated with an incredible amount of food and objects.  But preparing an altar in not that simple as it looks.

 I have observed during these days that people here are very serious about this holiday, and they try to do their best to make a sumptuous altar, so that the souls of the relatives would appreciate the work their living relatives did. So they have to prepare all kind of food and stuff that the departed liked. They they talk about them as if they were alive, trying to remember all the good advices they left them when alive,and the good and bad things they did. Families prepare the altar to commemorate their relatives, and there is nothing better that seeing this symbolic demonstration of love towards them. The typical food we can find in an altar during Hanal Pixan is chicken, corn, pork, rice pudding, pan de muerto, and mucbipollo (which is a traditional mayan dish), and atole de maiz nuevo ( a cornflour drink). They light up incense, usually in this area is copal and myrrh.  Mayans, back in time, used to fill their dead relatives' skulls with corn.

Today, actually we can still observe that corn is still used a lot for this ceremony, and sort of mayan objects, like metate and molcajete, and can be found around the altars. What I found interesting was that families also offer their deceased chocolate, cigarettes, and alcohol (for the adults), while just  candies and toys for the kids' souls. Around the big square of the Centro, in Merida, I was able to "immortalize" some important aspect of this Mayan tradition. An exhibition of altar was taking course on Saturday with a display of altars from different parts of the Yucatan Peninsula, with the representation of more than 25 altars coming from some towns near Merida.

 Mayan mestizas were displaying their goods, but also preparing tortillas on a comal situated on top of the fire, and giving away to people  delicious mayan dish called "Pib" (usually in the little tows is cooked, then left buried underground for a while, to let it rest). It is also possible to find so sugar skulls only at this time of the year, that remind me a lot about the Sicilian tradition of the "Pupi di Zucchero" (Sugar Dolls), that we can also find only around these days. The first day of Hanal Pixan is dedicated only to the kids who passed away, then the second day they celebrate the adults. Just a nice way to bring back our dear souls' memories.