Ever think: Does anyone else spend hours in the cemetery?
The end of October marks the coming of three celebrations: Halloween, All Saints’ Day and All Souls Day. But whether or not you take part in the costumes that Halloween brings, you most likely follow a tradition that stems from All Saints’ Day or All Souls Day come October 31st and November 1st.
Maybe it’s as simple as visiting relatives in the cemetery and offering some prayers; maybe it involves leaving out some food and some memorabilia from when they were alive—everything varies. The world celebrates All Saints’ Day and All Souls Day differently, after all.
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While All Souls’ Day actually falls on November 2, most Filipinos prefer to celebrate either on October 31st or November 1st—which are usually holidays for working individuals and also falls within the break of school-aged children. That said, there are still devoted families who prefer to celebrate three days.
During this timeframe, cemeteries all over the country are packed with people bringing flowers, candles and food to spend time with their departed relatives. Graves are cleaned, the grass surrounding the family plot is cut and prayers are said. Some of us like to spend entire days and even nights in the cemetery, armed with cards to play, kites to fly and radios to play music from.
Meanwhile, those who reside in the northern parts of Spain have a tradition called Castañada, also known as the chestnut celebration. What happens is that on the first day of November, families get together for an intimate night dedicated to their dead relatives. Much as its name applies, the people gather around to eat chestnuts, with each one they eat representing one dead.
Probably thanks in large part to Coco, Mexico’s Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is one of the more widely-known traditions. The entire practice is rooted in the belief that souls of the deceased reunite with their living family members on the first two days of the month of November.
During this time, families gather and decorate altars with photos of relatives that have passed, as well as their favorite food and pan de muerto, which is bread specially prepared for the occasion. And, of course, the stylized skulls, colorful skeletons and even the face paint that locals wear speak for themselves.
In Austrian tradition, godfathers give braided yeast bread to their godchildren on All Saints’ Day. It might seem like an odd practice, but it actually originates from ancient funeral practices, wherein women cut off their usually-braided hair as a sign of mourning when a loved one dies.
In Haiti, they celebrate Fet Gede (Feast of the Dead or Festival of the Ancestors), which has been described as a mix of Catholic traditions and Voodoo customs. Usually, the celebrations start with a pilgrimage to the Grand Cemetery in Port-au-Prince as the locals dress up, take to the streets and dance their communion with their ancestors.
At the graveyards, they feed their ancestral dead with gifts from their own table, which they believe will give them protection for the coming year.
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Now that the holidays are inching closer, what do you have planned?