Hanal Pixan/Soul Food


primary school exhibit


Hanal Pixan

 A couple of days ago excitement was  in the air with the school children as they compete to see who can make the nicest altars in the grounds of their particular school. Yolanda with a school friend came by to pick flowers from the garden, specifically looking for the flower known as Amor Seca a purple flower which is very common to use on the altars at this time.

Amor Seca


They left with  armfuls on their way to borrow someone’s pig. I offered Louis Miguel ,my lamb, they hesitated  for a moment then  said no..

Her cousin was busy  making a wooden batea (what they used to use  to wash clothes in)to make the surrounding Maya casita look more realistic.

Dual usage grinding corn and for washing clothes

She came by again for more flowers    today and I asked her how did go …. One could see the sadness in her eyes as she told me they had lost.

I replied, maybe you should have taken Louis Miguel with you as he speaks Spanish, to which she chuckled.

But  today she was helping her school friends build another altar, in the park across from the Palacio, where tonight all will be ready for an exhibition with lots of participants and mostly children of all ages.

Hacienda Uxmal exhibit

Along with the Amor Seca she took with her Aruda(rue a very powerful healing plant) and Albahaca (Basil) to adorn the altar.

Hanal Pixan (food for the souls) is one of the most important  if  not the most important traditions in the Yucatan.Also know as the day of the dead,or all saints day.

As the souls are called in October 31st for the children and November 1 sr &2nd for the adults it’s a time of remembrance and celebration with favourite foods adorning the altar table along with personal belongings, photos, hats, cigarettes (if the deceased had smoked)and maybe alcohol .Foods that you will see on the altars are varied … Xec a fruit salad with oranges,grapefruits and jicamas, Atole ,a drink  made from corn ,water, salt and sugar or  honey,Xocolate chocolate drink . Sweets like Yucca ,Papaya ,Ciricote and even squash ( Calabasa) all cooked until softened then added sugar or local honey. Candles and incense are burnt whilst prayers are said.After the offering  before indulging the following words are said.

Yesterday the dead took the essence now we the living eat the fat

A visit to the cemetery where most re paint ,clean and arrange fresh flowers at the grave.

The families that practice this tradition will gather in one house,   the famous Mucbilpollo, a kind of pie with corn dough filled usually with chicken a white sauce( Kol)  and wrapped in banana leaves and cooked. A little is usually put on the altar for the souls and the rest eaten with gusto as the families gather around the table to eat and socialize.


The conversation always leads to talk of the deceased of the family and stories of apparitions and souls in torment. This oral tradition being handed down keep s the return of the dead to this world, alive.

There are those that make a small altar to the side with  candles , food   and water for the solitary soul who have no one to remember them on Earth or who had no known relatives or a roving traveler  whose body disappeared without anyone to come looking for it  .

The Hacienda Uxmal had photos of famous decesed people like Carlotta wife of Maximiliano, Jacke Kennedy,Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier,King Hussan all of whom had visited Uxmal

This way no one is left out…………………As in life too no one should be left out we are all this together. Not only in death should we remember someone but in life too!

Altar for Grace Kelly and her king

Jackie Kennedy and King Hussain

About thepickledonionyucatan

Born in England emigrated to Canada and now reside in the Yucatan Mexico. LIfe is a journey so enjoy as much as you can
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2 Responses to Hanal Pixan/Soul Food

  1. BerylG says:

    Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly at the ruins. I just can’t see it. Did someone hold a sun umbrella over her? Did they do the same with Carlotta? When they came, the ruins were rough and it’s really hard to imagine these guys picking their way through the bush. What a fabulous bit of history.

    • When Carlotta arrived , by ship ,in the port of Progresso I was told there was a huge carriage waiting for her. This carriage was decked out with all the finery of a visitng royal. It must have made a wonderful sight to see especially here in the Yucatan.The story goes that she did visit St Elena too!

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