💀 Day of the Dead 💀
Benjamin Franklin famously said the two only certain things in life are death and taxes. Despite our best efforts, there are no havens from death. But, some would suggest that it is our memories of the deceased which allow them to “live” on. All over the world, people remember loved ones who have died and help them in the afterlife through celebrations and festivals. In some cultures, these remembrances are quite elaborate.
In Los Angeles, the largest such celebration is the Mexican Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, happening at the end of October. This Mexican version of All Souls Day has its roots in Catholicism. People build elaborate altars to their dead loved ones in their homes and decorate the deceased’s graves with flowers. Drawing from Aztec traditions, celebrants craft calavaeras, or sugar skulls, as part of the festivities. Every Mexican community has its own celebration. One important one in the Los Angeles community is a week-long series of processions at El Pueblo Historical Monument, 125 Paseo de la Plaza, Los Angeles from October 25th -November 2nd. See website for details.
Other Los Angeles area celebrations include:
October 24th: Día de Los Muertos, Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 6000 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Get details here on their website.
November 1st: Día de los Muertos Family Festival, Museum of Latin America Art, 628 Alamitos Ave. Long Beach. Get more information here. Check their calendar other events throughout the month of October as well.
November 7th: 13th Annual Noche de Altares, 4th and Birch Streets, Santa Ana. Detailed info on their website.
Check out additional listings here for other celebrations near you.
Venerating the dead is shared among many global cultures. Here are some other similar festivities from around the world:
All Saints’ Day
Celebrated in countries around the world, this holiday honors all Christian saints. In many European countries, people bring flowers to the graves of the dead relatives, and in some, relatives light candles on top of the graves. Christians in the Philippines have similar traditions.
Hungry Ghost Festival
In China, this day is celebrated to honor ancestors and to deal with any errant ghosts. Observers burn incense and make food offerings.
An annual Japanese Buddhist commemoration of one’s ancestors. The Japanese believe that each year during Obon, the ancestors’ spirits return to this world in order to visit their relatives. Traditionally, they hang lanterns in front of their houses to guide the ancestors’ spirits, visit graves, and make food offerings at house altars and temples, and at the end of the commemoration, put floating lanterns into rivers, lakes, and seas to guide the spirits into their own world.
A ritual performed by hindus in India to pay homage to their ancestors, especially as a way to express gratitude to their dead parents for having helped them to become who they are. The ritual, especially involving food offerings, may be performed during the Shraaddha Paksha, or Fortnight of Ancestors, a 16-lunar day period.
Cambodian Buddhists celebrate the Festival of the Dead at the close Pak Ben, a 14-day event where food and other gifts are brought to monks living in the local pagoda and to their ancestors. Offerings of decorated sweets and fruits are offered with prayers for their deceased relatives. For spirits that wander the world without any living ancestors to care for them, rice mixed with sesame seed are left in front of the pagodas. On the 15th day, family and friends gather for P’chum Ben at their local pagoda for music, speeches, and food in their finest clothing.
Festival of the Cows takes place in Nepal in August or September. As part of the celebration, families who have lost a loved on in the last year lead a cow (or child dressed as a cow) in a procession. The revered cow helps lead the deceased family member into the afterlife.