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Festivals intended to honor the dead is quite prevalent in many culture around the world. They are similar yet different from the popular Halloweens festival, which is more to do with dressing up in colorful costumes, carving jack-o'-lanterns and decoration of homes for trick-or-treaters. In some culture across the world, such macabre festivals are celebrated in a different way with a foremost purpose to honor the spirits, and the souls of dead relatives and ancestors. Hence it’s a mix of celebration with a touch of religious sentiments.
Here’s a glimpse of some of those unique and interesting festivals to honor and celebrate the dead, in different countries, cultures and panaches around the world.
The month long Ghost Festival is held during the seventh month of the Chinese calendar. As per the traditional belief, during this month, the gates of hell are opened up and ghosts are free to roam the earth looking out for food and entertainment. To please these ghosts, people burn offerings for them and leave out food. Families also pay tribute to other unknown itinerant ghosts so that these homeless spirits do not intrude on their lives. The festival is marked by spectacular live performances, which include Chinese opera, dramas, and burlesque shows, which are played in the night with very high volume, believing that the ghosts are attracted by sound. The first row of seats is generally left for the ghost to enjoy the show. Overall it’s a celebration time for the entire community as a whole.
As per Mexican belief, Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a day to celebrate life and death. Though this was originated in Mexico, but it is celebrated all over Latin America with colorful skulls and skeletons. This day is celebrated with family gatherings, offering of prayers and remembering friends and family members who have died, to support their spiritual journey. This tradition got listed in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2008. The festival is celebrated throughout Mexico, with revelers colorful and funky makeup and costumes hold parades and parties, music and dance, and offerings to deceased family members and friends.
The Buddhist festival, Obon is celebrated in Japan for 500 years. This is considered to be a special time of the year when the souls of the dead come back to visit the living and share a nice time, as per Japanese belief. During Obon, the family visits the graves of the ancestors to perform the ritual cleaning of the gravestones, and then release lanterns to help guide their spirits. The Bon tradition gives the country some of the unique dances that Japan is so famous for, like the Tokushima’s Bon dance, Awa Odori, which draws over one million tourists every year. Traditional Bon entertainment is so lively, colorful and indulging that it’s one of the must see attraction for the visitors.
Fet Gede, the Feast of the Dead, or the Festival of the ancestors is a time when celebrations are done to honor the ancestors who are dead. It is celebrated either or both of the first two days in November. This day is marked by festivity all around, with people nicely dressed up, dancing through the street, enjoying their communion with the ancestors, and processions are held up on the way to the graveyards, where they feed and make offerings to lost loved ones. They believe that by doing so, spirits are honored and their protection is gained for the coming year. This incredible rituals includes, drumming, singing, lots of alcohol and merriment to raise the dead. The Fet Gede celebrations are quite unique to Haiti, which portrays the beautiful amalgamation of traditions influenced by African, colonial Christians and the original Taino inhabitants of Haiti.
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