Mexico is skillful at assimilating foreign things without surrendering its own traditions and identity. This blending of the unusual amidst the familiar helps to underpin Mexico’s attractiveness as a place to visit, and live.
One example of this blending of cultures is Mexico’s adoption of the Halloween custom of trick-or-treating into its Day of the Dead traditions. On the night of November 1st children in cities, towns and villages across Mexico dress up and roam the local neighborhood asking for candy while porting their hollowed-out and glowing pumpkins.
Instead of the ‘trick-or-treat’ mantra, the children arrive at each house and sing a little ditty which asks for their calaverita —little pumpkin— to be fed. Traditionally, children’s calaveritas are made using a chilacayote instead an orange plastic replica, but the latter are also sold at local shops this time of year.
There are several verses to the ditty the children sing and, like Mexico’s birthday song, the first verse is always sung and subsequent verses (in their original form or a variation) may follow-on afterwards…
Mi Calavera tiene hambre, ¿no hay un huesito por ahí? No se lo coman todo, déjenos las mitad.
La calavera quiere cenar; cinco de dulce, cinco de sal
La calavera tiene hambre, denle un pedazo de pan; no se lo acaben todo, déjenos la mitad
Taco con chile, taco con sal; la calavera quiere cenar
El muerto pide camote, si no le dan se le cae el bigote; la viuda pide una ayuda para su pobre criatura
Yo quiero mi calavera, antes de que me muera; no quiero la del difunto, yo quiero la de la ofrenda
Mi calaverita tiene hambre—mucha hambre, ¿tiene algo por ahí?
Qué bonita casa, que bonito hogar; queremos calavera, ojalá nos puedan dar.
Although confectionery is the most commonly-given treat, some homes prepare traditional foods or snacks to share with passers-by, which might include pieces of fresh fruit, small tamales, and other sweet or savory snacks.
Afterwards, when the children begin to walk away with their calaveritas (or themselves) duly fed, a final line of the calaverita song may be sung:
Ya se va la calavera; bien agradecida; porque en esta casa fue bien recibida.
If you’re visiting Mexico’s during the Day of the Dead, you might see children dressed-up in costume and walking around local homes and shops during the hours immediately after sunset on November 1.
If you live in Mexico, it’s wise to stock-up with some candy or treats to give children on the night of November 1st, especially if your home is situated in a local neighborhood where young families live. November 2nd is a public holiday in Mexico.
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