Hanal pixán mayan culture

Hanal Pixán; Day of the Dead in the Mayan World

Every year at the end of October, Mexico celebrates the Day of the Dead, one of the most spectacular traditions and a favorite of anyone who is part of it. While the modern Mexican enjoys this holiday in various ways, the Mayans have their own way of honoring death, and they do it through Hanal Pixán.

Just like the Day of the Dead, this tradition celebrates the link between the land of the living and those who have passed to the other side, however, it has its own peculiarities. To find out why in the Mayan world this celebration is even more amazing, here we share with you all about Hanal Pixán and how to celebrate it.

The Day of the Dead in the Mayan world

1. What is Hanal Pixán?

Hanal Pixán, or also called “food of the souls“, is the Mayan concept of what is more commonly known as the Day of the Dead, only in this case, it is celebrated mostly in the Yucatán peninsula and its surroundings.

Hanal pixan tradition
Tradition in the Yucatán Peninsula

Just like the celebration we already know, Hanal Pixán is a day to honor and remember the souls of those who have passed away, who during these dates are allowed to visit the land of the living and return to their earthly homes to spend time with their families.

As you can see, is very similar to the Day of the Dead, however, what makes it different is that it has certain regional variations, such as the elements that are placed on the altars and the typical dishes that are usually consumed during the celebration.

2. When is Hanal Pixán celebrated?

This Mayan festival begins on October 31st and ends on November 2nd, giving the deceased a period of three days to enjoy with their loved ones. However, so that the living can pay their respects, each day is assigned to a different type of soul.

When is hanal pixan celebrated
The dead visit the land of the living from October 31st

Thus, October 31st, also called “hanal palal” in Maya, is dedicated to children. While on the second day or “hanal nucuch uinicoob” families place altars to honor the memory of adults.

Finally, the third day is used to honor all the souls together, on this occasion a mass is usually held in the cemeteries of the villages and is better known in Mayan as “u hanal pixanoob”.

3. Essential elements of Hanal Pixán

For Yucatecan families and heirs of the Mayan traditions, Hanal Pixán is one of the most important customs of this season, which is why many prepare for it in advance. Since it lasts several days, the celebration involves various rituals and indispensable elements to carry out the ceremony.

elements of hanal pixan
Important elements in Hanal Pixán

Among the most important ones, we can mention the following:


All the gifts that are placed to the deceased on the altar of the dead are known as ofrendas. Depending on who is being commemorated, the objects on the altar may change.

ofrenda adultos en hanal pixán
Altars for adults with traditional symbols

For example, in the case of children it is very common to use bright colors as decoration and place toys, candy or chocolate. While in the altars dedicated to adults, in addition to placing their favorite foods, it is common to see alcoholic drinks or cigarettes.

Incense or copal

These two fragrances are used to guide the souls home and help them on their long journey from the afterlife, although both have the same function, in the Mayan villages the one that has more use is the copal. Since, in addition to cleansing bad vibes, in ancient times it was offered to the gods in ceremonies. 


Another way to guide our loved ones is through candles, which, besides being a symbol of light and hope, are used to illuminate the path of the souls back home. In some cases, 4 candles are placed in the shape of a cross (simulating the cardinal points) to guide them from wherever they are.

candles hanal pixan
The candles illuminate the way of the dead

As well, to invite the souls to spend Hanal Pixán in their homes, it is necessary to have a photograph or an image, which according to the beliefs must be positioned in such a way that it can only be seen through the reflection of a mirror. This represents that the person is no longer with us, but we still remember them.


One of the ways in which Hanal Pixán is filled with color and joy is by using flowers, traditionally the most used is the cempasúchil, either in orange or yellow tones, with these are usually traced paths of petals so that with its fragrance the souls follow this route.

cenpasuchil day of the dead
Cempasuchil flowers to guide souls
Traditional dishes:

Like any good celebration, the Day of the Dead in the Maya world is full of delicacies that charm both the living and the dead, among the typical dishes that are usually enjoyed are; atole of cocoa or corn, fruits, pan de muerto, and the insignia of Hanal Pixan, the pib.

Each of these elements brings something special to the date, making this celebration unforgettable for the dead, the living and the entire Mayan community.

4. How to start celebrating Hanal Pixán?

Some of the ways in which you can join Hanal Pixán is by carrying out certain customs such as decorating an altar, placing offerings or even visiting the graves of your loved ones. All great options to connect with the Mayan culture and contribute to the preservation of Hanal Pixán.

Hanal pixan in the mayan world
Altar and offering for the souls

However, if you are looking for an experience full of mysticism, the best thing to do is to visit Cobá, a Mayan community where you can experience the Day of the Dead in a much more authentic way. 

For this, just drop by Aldea Coba, Boutique Hotel in the Mayan jungle; a place full of magic, where traditions and customs meet the best of modern life, so that nothing interrupts your rest and the rest of your family. 

Special Day of the Dead in Aldea Cobá

To celebrate this tradition, Aldea Coba offers you discounts on your stay, delicacies to celebrate the Day of the Dead and a spectacular cinema under the stars. To receive more information about its incredible deals you can consult our direct line 998 402 1130, or if you prefer you can receive personalized assistance here. 

If you visit Aldea Coba, don’t forget to try the exquisite traditional dishes, especially the handmade pan de muerto and the Mayan chocolate. You can be sure that they will be an explosion of flavor and the perfect accompaniment for a unique evening with your loved ones.

During Hanal Pixán, just worry about enjoying life!



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