All Saints Day

During the beginning of November, the Republic of the Philippines resembles that of a fair. Families are joyously laughing while enjoying bountiful feasts. The night sky is decorated in beautiful colors of the rainbow as light and candles adorn the place, shedding bright halos throughout the provinces. Music is blasting while people sing and dance merriously to the tunes of karaoke. Others are gathered around to play majong or cards. One would never suspect these events to take place at a cemetery.

Much like Dia de Los Muertos in Latin countries, the Philippines rejoice in peace and happiness with passed loved ones. In the Philippines, November 1st and 2nd is a time of cleanse, renewal, and celebration, as deceased loved ones are believed to have rejoin the living on Earth. This time of reverie is known as ‘Undas’ or All Hallows’ also known as All Saints Day and All Souls Day respectively. Weeks before November, people go to the cemeteries to prepare and clean up the graves and tombstones of passed family members. Following the days of All Hollows, friends and families gather and visit their deceased loved ones, with October 31st being declared a national non working Holiday. The first day is to celebrate the lives of young children who have passed on, while the second day celebrates the lives of all loved ones lost. In the days before it is common to see families spending the night in cemeteries, often thought to help guide the spirits to their graves. The graves are decorated in favorite games, toys, and food dishes of the spirits whilst they were alive. It is common to paint the gravestones the deads favorite color, polishing their names, or distributing house like property onto the gravestones. Tiles of the floor and ceiling of the the spirits’ houses are found in abundance around the grave. It is thought to have given the spirits the tangible feeling of being at home.

As the largest Catholic nation in Asia, All Saint’s Day allows Filipinos to visit the family cemeteries overnight with the rest of the family clan. They bring candles and flowers and pay respect to departed loved ones whilst celebrating. Common items found around or on the gravestones like a sheaf of wheat, Rayed Manus Dei (hand of God), a crown, or images of individual and various saints are symbolic references around this time of year. The liturgical color is white during ‘Undas.’ Next to the town fiesta, Christmas and Easter, this is the most celebrated feast among Filipinos. The only moment filled by silence is the priest visits to bless the graves with some prayers for their dearly departed.

Both Halloween and its temporal neighbor, All Saints Day, have their roots in age old Christian mythology. An overnight stay with the spirits of deceased relatives creates a beautiful scene, lighting up graveyards in such picturesque ways with a forest of candles. It’s an amazing testament to family values, and the strength of kinship.

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