Most holidays in the US (where I live) revolve around Jesus, alcoholism, gluttony, and lighting shit up. The closest most of us get to day of the dead here in the Melting Pot is a pre-packaged party or some drink specials, because most people only think of the holiday as a costume. Thankfully as our neighbours in the Middle and South Americas have immigrated here, they have brought many wonderful facets of their cultures and cuisines. All of this to say, I’m fascinated by people and cultures with authentic, strong, and vivid traditions, particularly those who openly mourn and honour their dead. Each country, despite small unique differences, shares similar rites following a death; large funerals and wakes are planned, homes are prepared to receive guests, attendees are greeted with holy water, candles are lit to ward off bad spirits, and the deceased are buried in coffins or cremated. My music pick for this entry is the beautiful album “Saudade” by Thievery Corporation:
O Dia de Finados (Day of the Dead) Each year on 2 November, the Brazilian public holiday O Dia de Finados combines rites from Latin, African, European, Catholic, and other religious traditions. Similar to other Day of the Dead celebrations, Roman Catholics and others go to cemeteries and churches with flowers and candles. In Brazil, Day of the Dead festivities are a bit more somber compared to other countries, and participants typically spend the day in prayer, holding vigil through the night. Another difference that makes O Dia de Finados stand out is that Brazilians do not typically focus on creating altars for their dead. Instead they bring flowers, and they do not always bring food to the festivities since many of them occur in the cemetery. Photo shared from MKLM.org Brazilian ceremonies seem to focus more on introspection and expressing grief during O Dia de Finados, in contrast to other countries. Many Brazilians give up alcohol and meat in observance. When the time is right though, they have a few traditional foods just for this day. Guagas de Pan are rolled and decorated to look like babies, but unlike Muerto de Pan they serve as a symbol of life. Guagas are usually served in harmony with colada morada, which is often viewed as a symbol of death or the underworld. Here is a short video I found on Youtube that shows a bit of the celebration and touches on a relatively new craze of adding interactive memorials via QR/ Quick Response codes squares. You know those square images you can scan with a smartphone and immediately be taken to an app or website to learn about the location? This is a genius way to draw in the younger generations and help them engage with their ancestral history.
Ancestral veneration rites in the Middle and South Americas are said to trace back to the Aztecs and Mayans, who kept skulls of their ancestors to honour their memory. The skulls were displayed during remembrance rituals and this is still commonly practiced today. O Dia de Finados is just one of many holiday celebrations in Latin/Hispanic cultures that venerates the ancestral dead. Check out my blog Belize’s Hanal Pixan to learn about more! Bonus videos: A Brazilian hip-hop/rap group called Atitude Feminina:
…and a spooky rap about O Dia de Finados by Facção Central:
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