A celebration of life and death

The 1st of November, death people are commemorated all around the world. But this celebration changes a lot depending on the part of the world4447430141_a936105acb_z

In France,  it’s a holiday, but not a happy day… We call this day “All saints”, or “La Toussaint” in french. Every year, we dress well and go to the cemetery with our close family. We visit the tombs of the dead people we love and decorate them with a lot of flowers. It’s a silent moment. For a few minutes, each one devotes his thoughts to the loved ones they lost. Most of the time, after that, there is a family meal. But yes… In Western Europe, All Saints is not really a happy celebration. Surprisingly, these traditions are almost the same with the japanese ones. Indeed, in Japan, families visit the graves of their ancestors, pray and leave chrysanthemums.


However it’s the complete opposite in other countries ! I’m sure that you know or have heard about “El dia de los muertos” in Mexico. It is a festive, colored, and very popular celebration that is unique in the world. During the night thousands of people go to the cemetery with candles and pray for the dead. Throughout Mexico people put colorful altars in their home to make offerings to the dead. The offerings represent the 4 natural elements: Fruits, to feed the dead, for the Earth, silk to represent the air, water so the spirits can drink, and to finish, fire represented with candles for which dead people we remember, and one last for the forgotten souls. Also, on these altars they put the famous bread “de muertos”, sugar skull called “calavera”, tequila, and a cross indicating the four cardinal points to allow souls to find their way to the altar and back.


Now, let’s enter a Guadeloupean cemetery on the 2nd of November evening. It’s almost like being in Mexico, atmospheres are similar! During the night, families meet on the graves of their relatives, to drink rum and have party. But this celebration is prepared one week before. Families clean the graves to show respect to the dead. After that a big meal is organized. They cook the favorite dishes of the dead and place them on the table. Then, all the living people leave the room, so dead ones can eat the meal. If we stay in the Caribbean and go to Haiti, we find traditions a little bit different. Haitians celebrate the spirit of the dead. The Voodoo priests organize the ceremony. The participants are dressed in purple and black, they meet on a sacred grave on which they spit while drinking and smoking.

In Sicily, for the celebration of the dead, families are in a good mood. During the day, they take the kids to the catacombs, so, they can touch bones and keep contact with dead people. There, children receive gifts from the dead. So, these are considered like Santa Claus! For the celebration, merchants sell sweet biscuits called “l’ossa dei morti”.


To finish, I learned that in Skopje, it’s again very different. First, here, celebration of the dead is not on the first of November but, around may/june for the pentecost. Afternoon, people clean and visit the graves of the deceased members of the family. This celebration is based on food, shared with dead people and friends.

Now, you and me know what is going to happen around the world on the 1st of November. So we can have a thought for all the traditions, the dead, and the participants in the celebration.


Chloe Dumeusois

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