In just a few days it will be the “Day of the Dead”, more popularly known to everyone as November 2 “All Souls Day”. This day is celebrated around the world in various ways by families and friends who come together to remember those who have passed on.
The popular tradition is said to have started between 2500 and 3000 years ago by indigenious cultures to remember their ancestors and is partly religious and partly pagan. Originally it fell on the 9th month of the Aztec calendar, roughly around the 1st of August, and lasted the entire month.
In some regions of Mexico November 1 “All Souls Day” honors children and infants and is referred to as ‘Dia de los innocents’ – ‘Day of the Innocents’ or ‘Dia de los Argelitos‘ – ‘Day of the little angels’ while November 2 is for the rest of the dead. On this day people visit the graves of family members who have died taking toys for the children and food, drinks and gifts for the older members of the families. While eating the food and drink themselves, they believe that the dead enjoys the spiritual essence of the food along with them. The toys, blankets, pillows and other gifts are left at the graves for the dead to enjoy and take a rest after their long journeys.
Another way they honor their ancestors is by building altars or small shrines in their homes adorned with pictures of the deceased, flowers and candles, then they pray, dance and relate stories of when they were alive.
Other cultures, around the world, celebrate the “The Day of the Dead” in different ways
(a) in Guatemala they construct a giant flying kite and eat a traditional dish ‘Fiambre’ on Nov 1 and Nov. 2
b) in Haiti, the voodoo tradition mixes with the catholic observances, loud drums and music are played all night at the cemetrys to awaken Baron Samedi the lord of the dead, and his mischievous family of off springs the Gede.
(c) in the Phillippines their tradition began during the Spanish Colonial era, they clean and repair the graves and many families camp out in the cemetrys for one or two nights near the family graves playing cards, drinking, singing and dancing.
(d) In Korea the “Day of the Dead’ is known as ‘Chuseok’ and is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Lunar calendar with rituals to the spirit of the ancestors.
(e) In China, on the 9th day of the 9th month of the Chinese calendar, they tend the graves of the departed and on the 7th month, known as the ghost month, the spirits come out from the underworld to play.
In the United States, in areas with a large Latino population, the celebrations are very similar to the ones in Mexico, while in some areas it has been combined with pagan harvest rituals.
(a) In Tucson they have held an All Souls procession since 1990. The 2 1/2 mile procession can be joined by anyone at anytime wear what the spirit moves you to and bring your prayer to put into the urns which are then burned.
(b) In Hollywood the annual celebration took place on Oct. 27 in the Hollywood Forever Cemetry where Aztec dancers in full costumes performed and over a 100 altars were built to honor the ancestors. Food vendors from around Los Angeles supplied the traditional ‘bringing of food’.
(c) In Santa Ana the 10th annual ‘Noche de Altares’ will take place on Nov 3 from 1 – 10 p.m. at Fourth and Birch Streets in a carnival atmosphere. The free community event brings people together to honor the ancient traditions and everyone attending is encouraged to build an altar in memory of a loved one, as well as to bring awareness to social issues. Visit the website for a full schedule of events.
References: For other “Day of the Dead” events visit http://binged.it/RqrGJr
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