Travel Leisure

Five Celebrations That Honor The Dead All Around The World

Dia de Muertos is a Mexican holiday rooted in ancestral homage. Every year on November 1-2, Mexican descendants around the world celebrate their deceased loved ones. There are festive celebrations in the streets, parades, decorating of elaborate shrines for the dead and flowers and lit candles all around. 

As people celebrate the deceased in Mexico on the Day of the Dead, it is believed that the passageway between the spirit world and the real world is open. Families are able to commune with their ancestors once a year and remember their legacies. 

Mexico isn’t the only place that prioritizes honoring deceased loved ones. Destinations around the world believe in celebrating and communing with the dead. Some happen year round while others happen every few years. No matter the celebration they all serve to remember the lives of ancestors who have passed on. Here are five international celebrations that honor the dead happening around the world.

Famadihana – Madagascar

women and child walking in Madagascar
Photo credit:
2Photo Pots

In Madagascar, the Menna and other tribes in the hillside honor the dead through a celebration that happens every five to seven years. Also known as “the turning of the bone,” Famadihana is a time when the dead are exhumed for one day of celebration and reunion. It is a sacred ritual. Tribes consult with an astrologer to decide what day the celebration should take place. Once the tombs are open, the bodies are carefully removed for families to eat, dance, and commune with their loved ones. The remains are returned to their tombs before sunset. 

The Jazz Funeral – New Orleans 

Jazz funerals in New Orleans are extremely common. They can happen any time of year when someone in the community loses a loved one. Instead of sadness and mourning, locals in NOLA turn grief into a celebration of life and music. After the wake, a full band accompanies the family to the graveyard. A parade floods through the streets with musicians and singers behind the family and horse-drawn carriage. The parade master leads the procession as everyone sings songs like “When The Saints Come Marching In.” 

Qingming – China

traditional Chinese lanterns hanging
Photo credit: phiraphon srithakae

Approximately 15 days after the spring equinox, Qingming Festival takes over China. The name means Pure Brightness Festival and it’s an opportunity to celebrate ancestors in Chinese culture. One traditional custom on this holiday to honor the dead is sweeping of tombs and placing food offerings out for deceased spirits. 

Gai Jatra – Nepal

In Nepal, Gai Jatra encourages happiness instead of grief in regard to honoring the dead. Gai means “cow,” which is a symbol of wealth in the Hindu culture. On Gai Jatra, children dress up as cows and parade through the street to commemorate the lives of their ancestors. The celebration usually happens in July or August each year. 

Pchum Ben – Cambodia

ancient building in Cambodia
Photo credit: Vicky T

Pchum Ben is a 15-day Cambodian celebration. Locals honor the dead over a two-week period. They spend days gathering at beautiful pagodas by the water cooking all of their ancestors’ favorite dishes. Pchum Ben is one of the country’s most cherished holidays. On the last day, Cambodians carry food out to their ancestors in this culmination of the celebration.

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