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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Other festivals around the world that respect the dead

By Joan Seth

As you might have noticed, this current month is the Chinese Hungry Ghost Festival. Asia Paranormal is doing a series of postings about this peculiar event. In this article, we take a look at some other similar festivals to commemorate the dead which are celebrated around the world.

1. Bon Festival (Japan)

The Bon Festival or Obon Festival is celebrated in Japan usually in July or August each year. The reason for this discrepancy is that different regions of Japan base their calenders on different sources.

Celebrating the Bon Festival

During this festival, people usually return to their ancestral family houses and visit their ancestor's grave, similar to what Chinese people do during Qing Ming Festival. It has been celebrated in Japan for more than 500 years and traditionally includes a dance, known as Bon-Odori.

Each region has a local dance, as well as different music. The music can be songs specifically pertinent to the spiritual message of Obon, or local min'yo folk songs. Consequently, the Bon dance will look and sound different from region to region.

Bon-Odori dance

[More Info]

2. Day of the Dead (Mexico)

Mexicans all over the world, particulary in United States and Canada celebrate the Day of the Dead on Nov 2 every year. This festival gathers all family and friends to pray for and remember family, relatives and friends who have passed away.

A Day of the Dead carnival in Mexico

Traditions include building private altars honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts. The origins for these traditions can be traced back to the indigenous cultures. Rituals celebrating the deaths of ancestors have been observed by these civilizations perhaps for as long as 2,500–3,000 years.

However, in modern times, the Day of the Dead is sometimes thought of as a similar festival to Halloween; however, there is actually nothing in common.

La Catrina is the skeleton of a high society woman and one of the most popular figures of the Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico.

[More Info]

3. All Souls' Day (Worldwide)

All Souls Day is commemorated by Catholics all around the world. The Western celebration of All Souls' Day is on 2 November and follows All Saints' Day, which commemorates the departed who have attained the beatific vision. Different people around the world celebrate this day in various methods.

The French people customarily decorate the graves of their dead on the jour des morts, while German people stream to the graveyards once a year with offerings of flowers. Czech people visit and tidy graves of relatives.

In Brittany, people flock to the cemeteries at nightfall to kneel, bareheaded, at the graves of their loved ones, and to anoint the hollow of the tombstone with holy water or to pour libations of milk on it. At bedtime, the supper is left on the table for the souls. In Bolivia, many people believe that the dead eat the food that is left out for them.

Food offered for the spirits of the dead; very similar to Chinese traditions

[More Info]

4. Eid il-Burbara (Arab states)

Eid il-Burbara or Saint Barabara's Day, is a holiday very similar to Halloween annually celebrated on December 4 among Arab Christians in Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine. It is celebrated in honor of the Christian Saint and Martyr Saint Barbara. The general belief among Lebanese Christians, is that Saint Barbara disguised herself in many different characters to elude the Romans who were persecuting her.

The traditional food made on this feast is Burbara, a bowl of boiled barley, pomegranate seeds, raisins, anise and sugar offered to masquerading children. In Lebanon, Lebanese Christians cook a dought that is filled with walnuts or cheese. A heavy traffic occurs in bakeries because of people buying the traditional food for this holiday. Moreover, children go trick or treating while singing a special song for Eid il-Burbara.

[More Info]

5. Hop-tu-Naa (Isle of Man)

Hop-tu-Naa is a Celtic festival celebrated in the Isle of Man on 31 October. Predating Halloween, it is the celebration of the original New Year's Eve.

For modern Hop-tu-Naa children dress up and go from house to house with the hope of being given sweets or money, as elsewhere. However the children carry carved turnip lanterns rather than pumpkins and sing Hop-tu-naa songs.

In older times children would have also brought the stumps of turnips with them and batter the doors of those who refused to give them any money.

Children celebrating Hop-tu-Naa

[More Info]

6. Korochun (Eastern Europe)

Korochun is a Slavic holiday, considered the day the Black God and other spirits associated with decay and darkness are most potent. It was celebrated by pagan Slavs on December 21 the longest night of the year and the night of the winter solstice.

Modern scholars tend to associate this holiday with the ancestor worship. On this day Western Slavs lit fires at cemeteries to keep their loved ones warm, and organized feasts to honour the dead and keep them fed. They also lit wooden logs at local crossroads.

[More Info]

7. P’chum Ben (Cambodia)

P’chum Ben, or more commonly known as Pchum Ben, is a Cambodian religious festival, culminating in celebrations on the 15th day of the tenth month in the Khmer Calendar. In 2008, the national holiday fell on the 28th - 30th of September in the Gregorian calendar.

The day is a time when many Cambodians pay their respects to deceased relatives. People cook meals for monks, bring offerings to the temple and throw rice near the temple early in the morning, believing that the ghosts of their ancestors will receive it. The festival is celebrated mostly among Cambodian Buddhists. Although its a Buddhist holiday in Cambodia, its not celebrated in other Theravada Buddhist countries like Thailand, Laos, Burma, and Sri Lanka.

Cambodians praying

Meals prepared for the festival

[More Info]

8. Qarqe'an (Kuwait)

Qarqe'an is a event celebrated annually in Kuwait and other Arab countries during the month of Ramadan. This tradition has been practiced for hundreds of years: children knock on the doors of homes in their neighborhood wearing traditional clothes and carrying a basket to receive sweets and nuts.

Although sharing superficial similarities to modern day practices of Halloween, which is practiced in some western societies, Qarqe'an omits the horror theme and has no associated origin with Halloween.

[More Info]

9. Alla Helgons Dag (Sweden)

In Sweden, the people celebrate something similar to Halloween, but it is named as Alla Helgons Dag. It was imported sometime during the 1990s, and is widely celebrated among children and youths between October 31 and November 6 every year.

Kids go around the neighborhood collecting sweets from neighbors and dress up in costumes too, similar to Halloween celebrations in the western world.

Alla Helgons Dag

[More Info]

Now there you go, essentially all these festivals are similar to each other one way or another - it gives people time and occasion to commemorate, respect and remember their loved ones who had passed on.

Some pictures and text in this article are granted permission to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; and as such are reproduced in this article.

1 comment:

  1. OOOO this is so informative! are there still somemore, anymore ? or is this all you have?


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