Pan de Muerto: part of the Mexican tradition
Along with Catrina dolls, pumpkins, sugar skulls, Day of the Dead and Halloween also comes pan de muerto. October is a busy month traditionally and with each tradition are special foods.
Pan de muerto or pan del los muertos, is a sweet bread found in Mexico leading up to the Day of the Dead, which is celebrated November 1 and 2. All Saints’ Day — November 1 — and All Souls’ Day — November 2. In Mexico and among Mexican-Americans, though, November 1 is usually reserved for honoring the memories of children who died – angelitos — while November 2 is for remembering those who were adults at death.
This sweet bread is normally shaped in the form of a bun, but decorated with bone-shaped phalanges pieces that form a circle. The center of the bread is reserved for a tear drop. The bone shapes are meant to symbolize the disappeared one (difuntos or difuntas), while the tear drop represents goddess Chimalma’s tears for the living. The circle of bones represent the circle of life.
Before baking, the bread is topped with sugar. One of the distinguishing factors that makes pan de muerto different from regular sweet bread is the addition of anise, which gives it a very distinguished taste, however other day of the dead breads are flavored with orange flower water.
Pan de muerto is eaten on Dia de Muertos at the gravesite or alter of the deceased, however, in some regions of the country, the bread is consumed up to a month before the official Dia de Muertos celebration.