30/10/2008Hanal Pixan, celebration of the dead in Cancun

Since Prehispanic times, each November, Mexicans celebrate and remember those who have passed away and come back to share and celebrate with living family members.

Moved by reverence and nostalgia, each region has a different way of praising their ancestors through rituals and ceremonies such as the picturesque and peculiar Mayan tradition of Hanal Pixan or supper of the souls.

Combining Mayan and Christian elements, this custom consists of food and beverage offerings that aim to remember their beloved ones that undertook the eternal journey and are granted permission to visit their relatives and friends here on Earth. For this reason, those who are still alive, welcome their loved ones with the most succulent flavors that will make them feel alive once again.

During the days prior to the celebration, people begin embroidering tablecloths to be placed at the altar table, while also mud plates and wax flowers are crafted especially for the death. As a tradition, homes and patios are cleaned up well so that the special guests won’t have to do so. People also go to bed earlier and visit the cemeteries where they place different kinds of altars.

October 31st, is dedicated to the children’s souls. According to tradition, children attending the ceremonies should wear a red or black ribbon on their wrists so that the souls of the dead don’t take them. The offerings must be agreeable and indulged with toys, sweets, chocolates, honey, fruits and vegetables toped with salt, lemon and chili. This way, deceased kids will be happy and smiling instead of being sad to depart.

November 1st is the day devoted to the souls of adults and All Souls Day is on Nov. 2. That day, tables are served with the souls’ favorite stews and drinks as well as cigarettes for those who were smokers, but mainly the mucbilpollo, the Mayan word for food that is baked in a hole at ground level and the balché which is a spiritual beverage made of Mayan tree bark. There is also soap and water for them to wash their hands and clothes.

A week later, Mexicans celebrate the day when the visiting souls say good bye to their relatives and leave this world. For that reason, people place candles in their homes for souls to be able to find their way back. This custom is locally known as the Bix, the Mayan term indicating the celebration of the dead.

For the third consecutive year, the traditional Festival of Life and Death will take place from October 30th to November 2nd at Xcaret Park, near Cancun. During the event, visitors have the opportunity to learn more about Hanal Pixan with the participation of over 1000 volunteers, 719 artists and 39 local Mayan communities of Quintana Roo who will give theatre and music performances, offering exhibits and rituals. Visitors will also have the opportunity to learn about local handicraft, visual arts and the great gastronomic exhibit.

This occasion is ideal to learn more about a tradition that dates back thousands of years and identifies the Mayan communities in Yucatan while providing visitors the opportunity to experience first hand one of the most distinctive Mexican traditions.


About Cancun
Cancun is located in the northern part of the southeastern Mexican state of Quintana Roo. The island of Cancun is in the shape of a “7” and is bordered to the north by the Bahia de Mujeres; to the east by the Caribbean Sea; and to the west by the Nichupte Lagoon. Cancun is Mexico’s largest tourist destination and boasts 146 hotels with a total of 28,808 rooms. Opportunities for new experiences abound in Cancun, which offers visitors an ideal setting for interacting with nature and discovering Mayan culture.

Cancun Convention and Visitors Bureau

Gina Salazar