I have had some wonderfully rich and informative responses to my post about the Day of the Dead. I would like to share them with you all, so here they are:
For last 5 years I have organised a welsh " light up a life" service... it’s a very moving service, all lay lead with no clergy, readings and carols by candlelight and an opportunity for anyone to come forward and light candles in memory of family and friends. At first service we expected about a 12 people - however half an hour before we were full and had to bring extra chairs and it has carried on being so popular year and year. We do need to remember and opportunities to do so are important.
In Sweden they have a similar approach – they light candles in graveyards and in every window of their houses and they have parties. Giving out the light has especially good and cheering effects. It looked magical when I was there 6 years ago. Tomorrow I shall go and visit two friends who died young in the cemetery at the top of my hill.
For many death is the last taboo. Don't think or talk about it and maybe it will go away.... Then again, I suppose we get on with life precisely because we repress the awareness that one day we will not be around. All Souls' Day (2nd November) known as the Día de los Difuntos in Spain. The Spanish do visit the cemetery en masse to remember the departed, and there used to be the custom (maybe there still is) of spending the night in the cemetery, with lights, food and drink. Various traditions are observed throughout Spain, and special delicacies prepared for the occasion (for example, the "huesos de santo"). In Ireland, particularly in country areas, there is still the custom of holding a wake for the deceased in his or her own home. "Historically, the Celtic nations have always had a great respect for their ancestors and they believed that at certain times of year, the boundaries between mortals and the souls of the dead cease to exist. This is especially true of the “Three Nights of the End of Summer” - Hallowe’en, Samhain and All Soul’s Day. The ancients also believed that the dead were the repositories of wisdom and lore and that one of the reasons they return is to speak to their descendants. (Taken from an article by Bridget Hegarty.) I too would love a celebration in the churchyard where my father is buried in Ireland. He certainly would be present in spirit I think, as he loved any kind of celebration and get-together. We'd have some hot whiskey, a drink he always liked on a cold winter's night, and lots of good conversation. He was an excellent conversationalist. Whenever our family meet with relatives, some near, some distant, my father, and my mother, are remembered, with laughter, joy and a tear or two.... Pity Hallowe'en has become commercialised in recent decades. All Hallows´Eve, or Víspera de Todos los Santos. The old pagan feast of Samhain.
Hallowe'en (the eve of All Saints) in Ireland was a night for telling ghost stories around the fire, and these traditions still hold in many places. The spirits of the departed at a crossroads, the headless coachman, the black dog... We share these traditions with Galicia, in northern Spain, and Asturias and a few other northern provinces. Best to avoid the "Santa Compaña" (Peregrinación de los Muertos), as they mournfully glide in procession, in two lines, along a dark, lonely road, barefoot, shrouded, carrying invisible candles, and led by a living person carrying a light, holy water and a cross...... The Santa Compaña does not restrict its mournful expeditions just to Hallowe'en.
In many parts of rural Ireland, it is traditional to visit graves and to honor the dead on a specific day each year, known as a Pattern Day. The date varies from parish to parish. In preparation, graves are cleaned and decorated with new flowers and shrubs. Often, family members who have left the area will return , meet friends and neighbors at the cemetery and remember the dead.
Cemetery Sunday is a tradition that goes on the length and breadth of Ireland. Often held in August throughout Ireland. The Pattern is a festival (music, dance, eating and drinking) with origins in pre-Christian times. And occasion too, in the past (and no doubt in the present) for young men and women to meet and get to know one another). Sometimes patterns were held at Holy Wells.