Happy Day of the Dead!

November 2 is Day of the Dead

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By David Hammond

Our rainy Halloween in Oak Park is now a memory

However, in Mexico, and in Chicagoland's Hispanic community, the celebrations continue with the Days of the Dead that continues for three days: October 31 is All Hallows Eve or All Saint's Day; November 1 is Day of the Innocents (or Day of the Children), when the passing of young ones is recognized; and November 2 is Day of the Dead.

A few years ago, I was on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula during the Day of the Dead celebrations.  During this annual recognition of death's inevitability and eternal life after death, people paint their faces to look like skeletons, visit cemeteries to pay their respects, set out offerings of favorite foods for the deceased and, of course, enjoy a traditional meal.

In Yucatan, a common food that's prepared during the Day of the Dead celebrations is Mucbil Pollo, a kind of tamale made of cornmeal, stuffed with chicken and spices, and wrapped in banana leaves. What makes this particular tamale preparation special is that it's cooked in the ground and then, before dinner, it's disinterred, it arises, much like the risen dead.

Tamales are one of my favorite foods, and like pizza, a platform open for infinite variation. What makes Mucbil Pollo so interesting to me – aside from the fact that it's delicious – is that the preparation is so closely connected with activities surrounding the Day of the Dead. Things that have been buried arise and sustain us in a way similar perhaps to the memory of those who've left this earth and who return, once a year, today.

So if you like Halloween as much as I do, then consider celebrating all three Days of the Dead…and have a tamale!


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Don H from Oak Park  

Posted: November 4th, 2013 1:39 PM

Actually the 31st of October doesn't really have much to do with Mexican culture (except insofar as Halloween has been imported from the U.S.), All Saints (Dia Todos los Santos) is Nov. 1. The day of the Holy Innocents is Dec. 28 and commemorates those children ordered killed by Herod in his attempt to kill the infant Christ.

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