10 ways to honor the deceased around the world

10 ways to honor the deceased around the world

By: Aurélie Vasseur - Content manager

The month of November is often associated with the commemoration of the deceased. At Memoria, we open the doors of our sites for a day of intimate gathering on November 14. It is a good time of the year to take a moment to remember those we have loved and who have loved us. Let’s discover how people honor the dead elsewhere in the world.

1. Simplicity of flowers

In France as in several European countries, people gather in all simplicity in the cemetery where relatives place flowers, most often chrysanthemums, on the grave of the deceased. Cemeteries are seen as painful places where most people go dressed soberly in dark colors.

2. Vigil

In the Philippines, cemeteries are cleaned, decorated and graves are covered with offerings, flowers, candles, cigarettes or even the deceased's favorite dish. Filipinos spend the night there during a 24-hour vigil punctuated by songs, dances and games. Upon returning home, candles are placed on the doorstep to invite the souls of the deceased loved ones inside the house.

3. Joyful celebrations

In many countries of Latin and Central America, especially Mexico with its famous "Dia de los muertos", celebrations take place under the signs of joy and celebration. Indeed, cemeteries are transformed into colorful festive gathering places where picnics, music and dancing are the order of the day. People paint their faces and connect with the souls of the deceased to whom they make offerings.

4. Voodoo cult

The “Fête des Guédés” is celebrated in Haiti in the spirit of voodoo mythology. Each person is dressed in black and purple and has a powdered face to represent the protector of the living dead, Guédé Nibo. They gather around sacred tombs and drink rum, smoke and dance. In this voodoo belief, the Guédés fear nothing as they have already lived. Their role is to lead the dead to the other life.

5. Opening of the tomb

In Madagascar, this event called turnaround consists of opening the tomb of certain ancestors and rolling them up in new silk shrouds to keep them warm. The family chooses how often each ancestor is honored by the turnaround. The descendants are joined by the crowd and dance to music with the body and then spend a moment of meditation and prayer.

6. Gifts for children

In Sicily and more particularly in Palermo, gifts and sweets are hidden in the house. Children go for a hunt to find these gifts “given by the deceased” before going to the cemetery to honor their memory. It's a gentler way to approach death with the younger ones. Together, kids and adults can enjoy local specialties: white sugar cookies and marzipan fruit.

7. Hungry ghosts

This holiday is celebrated in Malaysia and some neighboring countries. According to those attending, the gates of hell open and evil spirits appear among the living in search of a meal. Offerings of food and incense are placed on the doorsteps of houses to protect against bad luck. Parades, shows and operas are presented to the attention of demons. Finally, everyone enjoys a wonderful feast.

8. Kites

In Guatemala, a real festival is set up. It is one of the most colorful holidays in the country. In order to communicate with the deceased, cemeteries are decorated and families welcome visitors. Large kites of up to 10 meters are constructed with a base of wood or bamboo and adorned with colorful silk papers. The wire of the kite allows the deceased to go down and join the living to share a day filled with joy, music and food.

9. Burnt paper money

In the countryside of China, offerings of all kinds are prepared for the ancestors, but in particular paper money also called money of the dead. The family goes to the grave and cleans it. If this is not done carefully, it could bring them great misfortune. Then incense sticks are placed to call for the spirits to come and collect the money. The paper money is then burned, the descendants kneel and gently bang their heads on the ground to show respect and pity. Back home, the family indulge in a pre-made feast of pork or mutton.

10. Cows as guides

The cow festival is celebrated in Nepal, in the Kathmandu valley. In this region, cows are considered holy as it is inscribed in the Hindu religion. During the festivities, children are dressed up as cows and help guide the recently deceased. Religious parades accompanied by songs and dances travel from town to town so that families can mourn or continue their mourning with joy and gratitude.

Everyone has their own culture, traditions, beliefs, and desires. At MEMORIA, we encourage and support you to honor the memory of a loved one, in his image and according to your values. We can do anything you want - the only limit is your imagination.