Festivals and Events

Mi Calaverita: Mexico’s Trick or Treat Traditions

This article describes how Mexico has assimilated the Halloween custom of trick-or-treating into its Day of the Dead traditions

Halloween and Day of the Dead

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.

Mexico is adept at blending cultures

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 of an orange plastic replica, but the latter are also sold at local shops this time of year.

Mi Calaverita song

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…

Lyrics to Mi Calaverita song in Mexico

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.

Traditional treats for the children

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.

Learn more about Day of the Dead in Mexico

We publish guides and articles to help you discover more about Day of the Dead in Mexico, as well as Pátzcuro and Oaxaca City.

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1 Comment

  1. Victoria Ryan says

    Here they started day before yesterday. (the 26th) The numbers of children will grow more and more each day till about November 2nd. Some of them look quite adorable and I wonder what their parents think while the are taking these sweet little angels around by the hand only to be rejected by local Mexicans, Mexican visitors and foreigners alike. Until today, I said to them “Halloween is Sunday”. Today I stuffed my purse with candies so I would be ready. Many of them are expecting only money.. which I find sad.. I provide my guests with a bottomless bowl of individually wrapped candies so they won’t be caught unprepared. Every year it gets more ingrained into the culture. I LOVE that the Mexican culture never lets go of one thing just adds other things.. but I have to say that Halloween seems like a way teach excess. Day of the Dead is about honoring your ancestors and the family. It is so different. I have the same complaint about Navidad. Here it was about the birth of Baby Jesus, the Wise Men seeking Him and the possibility of a new world. The addition of Christmas is about a fat guy in a red suit and reindeer but worst of all it is about an excess of gifts. It is sad. I’m old.. not comfortable with this kind of cultural inroad because there is a certain amount of greed or something that both of these customs represent to me at least. May you continue to live where it is only one day instead of a week and where you can find the combination charming instead of like a weed that is about to choke out the flowers in the garden.

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