While everyone was busy or excited about their costumes for the big Halloween party, the Mestizo community in Northern and Western Belize prepared for the traditional celebration of ‘El Finados’. This is a celebration honoring loved ones who have departed to the other world.
This tradition of remembering and honoring the dead stems from the Mayan belief that there is life after death. In Belize, this culture is still practiced and has become popular.
This day is especially celebrated in the small village of Benque Veijo Del Carmen, where Belizeans from across the country make an annual pilgrimage. The day commences with a Catholic Mass, where candles are lit to show the way for the departed to return, as it is believe that in the month of October, the dead are allowed to visit and walk amongst the living. At the end of the journey, the living throw a go away party with the ‘El Finados’, meaning ‘the final’, marking the end of the journey.
One can find decorated alters in homes. These alters are adorned with candles to light the way back to the underworld along with photos of the dearly departed loved ones. Ixpasa, a traditional corn porridge made once a year for this occasion can be found on the altar as well as tamales or a favorite food of the departed. It is not unusual to find a bottle of rum or a packet of cigarettes if these were enjoyed in the previous life. All these are presented smoking hot or burned as it is impossible for the dead to eat but the belief is that they can smell smoke or steam coming from these items.
A procession is made from the church or the home to the cemetery where wreaths and candles are laid, and the food prepared on the alter are presented. This marks the end of the traditional celebration, but these days the younger generation combines it with a newer tradition – they go trick-or-treating afterward.