Under Catholic beliefs, today is observed as “All Souls Day” or as it is most popularly known in the north, Los Finados.  The day is set aside on the 1st and 2nd of November to commemorate those that have died, those that are in purgatory and those in heaven.  The traditional practice dates back to early Christianity and for us it is a part of our Mayan/Mestizo culture as Catholics.  Today we visited Estella Grajalez who has been honoring the tradition the past 45 years.

Screen_shot_2012-11-01_at_8.38.14_PMHipolito Novelo- Reporting

In the glorious Maya days there were no cemeteries and families kept their loved ones close to home by burying them in their back yards. Every year the family would offer the dead their favourite foods and fruits thus giving rise to the genesis of the traditional Hanal Pixan.

The tradition was brought to Belize from Yucatan during the Caste War in 1848. Today the first day of November, is dedicated to the souls of children and infants that died at a very young age. The day is known as Dia De Los Inocentes and as you can observe, Estella Grajalez has put together a banquet in honor of the little souls.

Estella Grajalez, Coordinates the Novena

“Es tradición que levaba mi mama y mi abuela ellos levaban de hacer los finados y entonces nosotros lo seguimos. Se hace el rosario primero y después el rezado después cantan y ya todo duro como hora y media.”

As part of the tradition an altar is set up.

Estella Grajalez, Coordinates the Novena

“En el altar ponemos el pan batido, el solo pan y los merengues y las naranjas y el agua y un vaso de fanta. Hoy ponemos puras velas blancas y mañana velas negras.

Hanal Pixan means banquet for the souls. Today this banquet includes tokens of food enjoyed by children.

Estella Grajalez, Coordinates the Novena

“Como hoy hacemos solo pan y bebida hacemos pan de huevo, pan batido y caracol.”

For more than 45 years, Grajalez has been organizing and participating in the Novenas, with the aim of keeping the tradition alive. Today, while she celebrates All Saints Day, Grajalez is also preparing for tomorrows celebration known as All Souls Day dedicated to the adult souls that have departed our world.

Estella Grajalez, Coordinates the Novena

“Siempre se reparte naranjas los merengues y pastel y la comida mechado y escabeche. Es un gran día de las animas, un gran día que debemos respetar.”

For today and tomorrow the cemeteries will be decorated with candles as families of those who have departed to another world visit the gravesites of their loved ones.

On Monday November 5th the Banquitas House of Culture will be hosting a cultural exhibition in commemoration of Los Finados. The exhibit starts at 10:00am.

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