A Colorful Hanal Pixa
~ By Manny
In the United States, I grew up celebrating Halloween. I am used to the scary costumes, the kiddos trick-or-treating, and the neighbors decorating their homes into haunted house. Even though some of the Islanders celebrate Halloween by dressing up into costumes and having Halloween parties. There is another holiday that is celebrated in Mexico in the month of October, Hanal Pixan or Día de los Muertos. This holiday honors the memories of families and friends that have passed away. It begins October 31st and ends Nobember 2nd.
In the States, I mostly read about Day of the Dead. So, I was excited that I had the chance to experience and truly learn about Hanal Pixan here in Mexico. My school’s director invited me to the altar exposition on October 31st at 6pm. That morning I walked into the school and saw all the students bringing in color flowers, papel picado, fruits, tamales, sweets, and breads. Classes ended early that day and the children rushed to help decorate their altars. The students, teachers, and family members worked together to create these beautiful pieces. There were a total of five huge altars each representing different regions throughout Mexico. Each altar was influence by different indigenous tribes, the agriculture available in that region, and beliefs based on that region. The expo went over the symbolic meaning behind the items and who the altar was for. It was remarkable to see how the children were engaged to learn about their tradition, and so was I.
I was inspired by this holiday, I told my director that was going to create one for my father that passed away. She gave me pan muerte (bread for the dead) for his altar. There’s something very beautiful about gathering food and flowers for someone you’ve lost. After the expo, I now know the symbolic items that I will leave for him – water for his long journey, colorful papel picado and candles to guide him to his altar, and his favorite foods.
I feel very lucky to have experienced Hanal Pixan with my students and the teachers.