Late October and early November are surrounded with mythical, magical and mysterious aura. It’s the time of the year when we honor the people who are no longer with us and when we think about the afterlife way more than usually. But these special days don’t look the same in every country. When some cultures write the day of the dead as depressing and majestic, others celebrate it in warm and joyful atmosphere.
In Poland we celebrate the All Saints’ Day on the 1st of November and All Souls’ Day on the following day. It’s a time of pensiveness and nostalgia. We go to the cemetaries where our loved ones rest and we recall the time they spent with us. It’s usually the time of the family reunions as well. Similar customs can be observed in the countries where the Roman Catholic is a dominant religion. Our day of the dead has a really long tradition. According to the lore, it’s the time when the dead come to the Earth and scare the living. That’s why people celebrated ‘Dziady’. They wanted to propitiate the souls not to scare them by lighting the candles which was supposed to warm them and light their way. This is where the custom of lighting candles on the graves has its origins.
The most contrastive with our traditions is probably the way they celebrate Dia de Los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) in Mexico, where the celebrations last for three days. The 31st of October is a day when they recall the dead children that are called the angels. The two following days are dedicated to the dead adults. However, it’s not about crying. It’s a pretty cheery time that takes weeks to prepare. They make the special altars for the deceased family members, who are supposed to welcome them in the world of the living and buy a lot of sweets and presents for them. They do visit cemeteries just like us, however, not to decorate the graves, but to celebrate. A very popular symbol is a sugar skull – a representation of a human skull made of sugar or clay.
One of the most well-known traditions is American Halloween, which is inspired by an old Celtic holiday – Samhain. It’s celebrated on the 31st of October and, just as in Mexico, it’s a joyful day full of fun. People decorate their houses to look more scary. One of the most common decorations, used also as a symbol of this day is, a Jack-o-lantern, a craved pumpkin with a candle inside. Kids dress up as monsters and roam from house to house asking for candies using a famous phrase ‘trick or treat’.
Even though most days of the dead take place in Autumn, in Japan they celebrate it in July or August. They believe that the dead come to visit them and put special lanterns in front of the doors, so the ghosts wouldn’t get lost. They organise ritual dances in the cities, and send the lanterns down the rivers in little boats with the symbols of the dead.
News prepared by Karolina Gruca from 2g.