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Day of the Dead

Day of the dead altar

Mexico is known around the world for its colorful festivities and its people’s love for celebration (after all, we’re to blame for the popularization of the word “Fiesta”), however, there is one holiday in Mexico which is observed in a more peaceful manner and which has a rather peculiar significance, and even raises some brows around the world, that is, the Day of the Dead.

While Halloween is a far more known dead-related festivity around the globe, the Mexican Day of the dead has become a widely recognized holiday and one that draws thousands of travelers every year to the hot spots that celebrate it in a most unique way in Mexico, such as Patzcuaro in Michoacán or Mixquic in Mexico City.

However, with the world having its eyes set on the Yucatan peninsula over the last few decades due to the tourism explosion it has had, visitors are now starting to note the unique attributes the day of the dead celebration has in the area.

Perhaps the most distinguishing part of the celebration of the day of the dead in the Yucatan peninsula (which, by the way, in Mayan is called “Hanal Pixan”) is the giant tamal that is prepared only at this special celebration, the “mukbilpollo” or also known as “pib”.  This tamal has a weight of approximately 2 to 6 lbs, and it filled with pork, chicken, hardboiled eggs, tomato and herbs. It is meant to be cooked underground (in a specially man made hole built for it which acts as an oven) this is called a “pib” and this word is also the origin of another traditional Yucatecan dish, the “cochinita pibil”.  Therefore, if the dish has the particle “pib” in it, it indicates that, the dish has been cooked overnight, underground.  This process makes all meats specially tender and juicy and in the case of the “mukbilpollo”, a far more tasty and crispy tamal than the average Mexican tamal you may know.

Day of the dead is a celebration of the life of the deceased rather than a mourning for their passing. It is an exaltation of the wonderful memories one has with the departed, a remembrance of all the likings and peculiarities that made the person unique, thus the setting of the altar and all the elements that compose it.

At Discover Mexico, we’ve set a Day of the dead altar for your year-around enjoyment and knowledge of what an authentic Mexican altar for the occasion looks like. It includes elements such as mole, artisanal chocolate, and tequila, all of which you can acquire at our gift shop, giving you the opportunity to create your very own altar back home.

If you happen to be in Mexico during the early days of November, consider yourself lucky as you will then have the opportunity to witness a most unique and ancient tradition of Mexico, one which comprises many elements of the Mexican culture, gastronomy, idiosyncrasy and history.  By all means, do not be afraid and think of it as a morbid tradition. We really are honoring the deceased lives and the wonderful trace and impact their lives have in our current life.  Day of the dead is therefore a celebration of life, a warm reminder of how amazing it is to live in a country with such cultural richness and attributes. Join us. You will be amazed of how special Day of the dead in Mexico is.