Halloween is coming up soon in USA, as well as the “Dia de Muertos” in Mexico. While Halloween have its roots on Celtic traditions to guard off ghosts and other spirits just when the days became shorter and colder, marking the end of summer and harvest. Eventually, Christianity adapted the festival into the All Saints Days to attract more converts in its first few centuries. By the time Catholicism arrived to what is actual Mexico, they local traditions were also adapted into a new holiday.
Death had always been a prominent motif on prehispanic cultures with the use of skulls, flowers and altars to honor the dead. People are more familiar with the “Dia de Muertos” from central Mexico, because the Aztec Empire consisted about half of current Mexico. On the other hand, the Southern part and the Yucatan Peninsula was in fact Mayan territory. They have a similar, yet disctinctive culture and traditions. For example, the Mayans believed that when someone died, they remained behind in our world for a time, not yet realizing they were dead.
Both Aztecs and Mayans had festivals around the same dates honoring the spirits and souls of the departed following the same logic as the Celts. For Mayans, this week long festival was called Hanal Pixan, meaning “Feast of the Souls“. They would decorate their houses and place and altar with the favorite meals of the departed. Different days were focused on different types of people… for example there was a day dedicated specifically to children, who also got toys on their altars.
In modern times, there is worry that people will forget about the rich traditions about death from all over Mexico. This is why every year from over the last decade, the Xcaret eco-park has been holding an impressive festival to share it with the whole world. This “Festival of Life and Death” is an excellent opportunity to really get to know Mexican culture… a unique mix of native adapted beliefs to Catholicisms. People from around Mexico will come together here to share their music, gastronomy, art, dance, plays and poetry related with this holiday.
The festival takes place on Xcaret‘s park grounds in the afternoon up until around midnight during the 30th and 31st of October, and the 1st and 2nd of November. If you are in Cancun or Riviera Maya for your dental vacation don’t miss this opportunity! There are many Xcaret boots through Cancun’s Hotel Zone and downtown where you should be able to get information or you can even order online here.