Part 1 of a 2-Part Series
Did you think the only day to celebrate the dead is associated with Halloween and Day of the Dead? Guess again. While Americans tend to downplay death, other cultures celebrate death throughout the year, with panache. If you would like to remember your deceased loved ones throughout the year, here are some popular excuses to do just that:
Qingming Festival (Festival of Shang Fen or Tomb-Sweeping Day)
Celebrated in China on April 5, when ancestors “sweep tombs” of their dearly departed loved ones. Family members gather at their deceased loved ones’ tombs, where they clean the immediate area and use the occasion as an excuse to hang out. In this ceremony, family members bring flowers, food or other items in tribute to loved ones who have died. Also, grave visitors place willow branches to ward off evil spirits who might otherwise visit during the festival.
Famadihana (Turning of the Bones’ Festival)
Observed in Madagascar, this holiday is celebrated in the winter, from June to September, every seven years after a person dies. Living family members remove their loved one’s remains from the tomb, re-wrap it and place it back into the tomb during a festive party. The celebration often includes carrying the body while dancing to live music. At the root of this tradition, the belief that the spirit of the dead will not enter the “land of the ancestors” until the body decomposes. CNN reported a native anthropologist’s explanation of the festival:
“We wrap the bodies and dance with the corpses while they decompose.”
Depicted in the movie, Mulan, this festival is observed in China between July and August. The annual event is centered around the belief that ghosts and spirits can exit the lower realm and return to Earth. The Chinese believe that restless spirits can leave the Spirit World for the Festival. Thus, family members prepare large amounts of food for ascendant spirits and homeless ghosts. The 15th night, the spirits enjoy a full-day pass to pop in on living descendants. In honor of the practice, Chinese place floating Water lanterns on the river to welcome ghosts and spirits to a dinner feast.
As shown in the movie, Karate Kid 2, this is held in August. A Buddhist event, the three-day observance, also called the Festival of Lanterns, is dedicated to the spirits of ancestors. During the festival, celebrants prepare and serve special food, which they place on altars in temples and homes. They also hang red lanterns in front of their homes. Japanese hang strings of colorful lights to guide their loved one’s spirits back to the realm of the dead at the end of the festival. Obon includes a family-reunion element, which celebrates both the living and the dead.
Observed annually Nov. 1 and 3, this Catholic observance follows All Hallows’ Eve, or Halloween. A national holiday in many countries, All Saints’ Day was born of early Catholicism, as a festival to honor unknown saints and martyrs. The next day —All Souls’ Day— commemorates the souls in Purgatory (a place for cleansing or purifying before entry to heaven.
Check back next week, to read part two of this series about the ways people around the world honor the dead.
About Foothill Funeral & Cremation Services
Whatever you do to mark your loved ones’ deaths, we would love to help during your time of need. We love helping folks take care of the details so they can move forward with their lives. Give us a call (626) 335-0615 or drop by our Glendora showroom. In Covina, our relationship with Sacred Heart Chapel is the perfect place for mourners to host funerals and memorial services in a grandiose yet intimate setting. We proudly serve the San Gabriel Valley, San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles Basin, Orange County and the Inland Empire. Working in the mortuary industry since 1996, we have worked hard to build a reputation of quality, sincerity and trust. Please allow us to help you at your time of need or in the future. Call today (626) 335-0615 or drop by our showroom.