Día de Todos los Santos is a very special holiday in Guatemala: a day to celebrate and remember loved ones who have passed away. Families gather, visit cemeteries to pay respects to family members, tend to and decorate graves with flowers and wreaths.
But that's not all - families also share a very unique tradition on November 1st....fiambre + barriletes.
First you eat fiambre (a traditional dish I'll tell you about below) then you fly los barriletes (kites, and who doesn't love kites?!) Its the equivalent of Thanksgiving turkey and football, you could say :)
Fiambre is best described as a cold salad that is made of a base of pickled vegetables and decorated in an almost chef-salad fashion (topped with more pickled veg, cold cuts, cheeses, and the ever present radish cut in half and carved with a knife to sort of recreate a bloom).
This dish is no joke - it is a family affair sharing recipes passed down from generation to generation. But the passing down comes with a twist - many Guatemalan abuelas won't pass down the entire recipe to one child - no señor. They divide the ingredients and steps in 3 or 4 parts and give portions of the recipe to each of the children so they're forced to lean on each other to bring the recipe to life. Like a 4-part harmony, the abuela - even from beyond the grave - enacting her genius plot to (forcibly) foster family togetherness.
Growing up in Guate, we were never really preoccupied with Halloween on October 31st. Instead of spooky setups and costumes, I was mapping our route around town with my madre to drop off serving dishes (empty ones!) to aunties, family friends and neighbors. Each dish was filled with the family recipes of Fiambre from all around town and we circled back to pick them up on November 1st, Dia de todos los Santos. The flavorful diversity of fiambre is my favorite part - so many dishes, one concept. My tía Tere makes her own charcuterie to add to the fiambre ahead of time. Doña Casta, our neighbor growing up, had the best of my childhood years. El fiambre de Sarita, another family friend, outdid themselves with a fiambre to die for (pictured below).
As November in Guate also marks the change in seasons and the first winds of winter blowing in, the time is ripe for flying a kite, also known as barriletes. Mayan people have used kites to communicate with the spirit of the deceased loved ones for centuries. In November you see kites sprinkled across the sky no matter where you are in Guatemala - from the hot, rural Southern coast to the chilly Western Highlands, to the green parks in the capital city - people are flying kites, making kites, selling kites, exchanging kites.
The barriletes you see on November 1st, Dia de todos los Santos, are masterpieces crafted by local communities, some of which they are working on literally for the whole year before unveiling on the holiday. Some barriletes reach several stories high, all from tissue paper and bamboo swirled up into unique, intricate shapes that dance across the sky. The villages of Sumpango & Sacatepequez have some of the most famous ones, which people travel miles and miles to see every year (check them out below).
In Guatemala, Día de Todos los Santos is a festive, joyous occasion rooted in tradition... and deliciousness. At Convivio Café, we hope to bring some of that deliciousness to you each year, hosting the only celebration of Dia de Todos los Santos in the Denver area, to bring a little Guatemala to our community. We hope you join us.