Festivals for the dead

Mexico – Dia de los Muertos  (Day of the Dead)

This is celebrated on November 1st (All Saints Day) and 2nd (All Souls Day), and it is the belief that families can be reunited on these days with their dead relatives. The 1st is for deceased children to be remembered known as Dia de los Angelitos (Day of Little Angels) their graves are decorated with toys and balloons and the 2nd is for deceased adults, Dia de los Difuntas (Day of the Dead) there are displays of their favourite food and drinks as well as personal belongings. Flowers and candles are placed on their graves, these are supposed to guide the spirit to their loved ones. Other things that are used to symbolise this festival are skull shaped candies, marzipan death figures, pan de muerto (coffee cake) and paper mache skeletons.  From 6 pm bells ring out every 30 seconds to summon the dead and they stop at sunrise, it is at this time that the relatives who have visited the graves go home.

Latin America – Dia de los Santas (All Saints Day)

The Guatemalan festival is highlighted by the construction and flying of kites and the consumption of fiambre, a traditional salad dish that can be made with up to 50 ingredients.

Brazil – Finados (Day of the Dead)

This is celebrated on the 2nd November, people will go to cemeteries and churches with candles, flowers and say prayers, and this festival is meant to be positive, by celebrating the deceased.

Haiti – Day of the Dead

Roman Catholic traditions are mixed with voodoo traditions. Loud music is played throughout the night at cemeteries to awaken Baron Samedi the God of the dead and his offspring.

Bolivia – Dia de los Riatitas (Day of the Skulls)

This is celebrated on November 9th. Traditionally this is where a family has kept one or more skulls of a deceased family member, it is kept in their home to watch and protect them through the year, on the day of the festival the skull is crowned with fresh flowers and the families give thanks by offering thing like food, alcohol and cocoa leaves.

Philippines – Araw ng mga Patay (Day of the Dead)

This is celebrated on November 1st. Tombs and graves of the deceased are cleaned and/or repainted, candles are lit and flowers are offered. Families will stay at cemeteries for the entire night to celebrate by eating, drinking, singing and dancing.

Europe  – All Saints Day

The European countries that celebrate the festival have this day off work. In Portugal and Spain they go to the cemeteries with candles, flowers and toys and sweets for the children. Along with these 2 countries Portugal, Italy, France, Netherlands, Ireland also visit the cemeteries of their loved ones. In Austria, Germany, Hungary, Croatia, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia and Poland the festivals are lead by lighting candles. In Brittany they kneel on the graves and anoint them with holy water.

Japan – Obon

This is a Japanese Buddhist festival celebrated on the 14th, 15th and 16th August. It is where families return to their ancestral families and visit and clean the graves of their deceased family, and include the traditional Bon Oduri dance.

Korea – Chuseok

Celebrated on the 15th August, Koreans return to their home town to visit their loved one graves and to perform ancestral worship rituals.  There is also a huge feast of traditional Korean foods, one of the major foods eaten is Songpyeon a crescent shaped rice cake which has been steamed upon pine needles.

China – Qingming Festival

This is celebrated on the 5th April; the deceased graves are visited and tidied. Also July is known as Ghost Month where ghosts and spirits from the lower realm are able to visit. On the 13th July Ghost Day heaven, hell and the living on earth are all open and rituals are preformed to help stop any suffering, other things that are done during this month are offerings of food, where a seat is set for the deceased and elaborate meals are served, the Chinese will treat the deceased member as if they are still living, also incense and joss paper are burned.

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