Sunday, October 31, 2010

iPhone Diaries #258: "Halloween in two cultures"

prelude to a carving - pumpkin with the top off
It was quite a surprise to me, coming from the Philippines, observing the way Halloween is observed in Canada. We are all too familiar with the October 31st ritual: for adults in the workplace, getting dressed up in costumes and for children, getting dressed up in school and at sundown, going trick-or-treating. It's great for the costume-makers and the Nestle/Cadbury/Mars conglomerates. I don't think I'll hear the kids complaining about the situation.

It's a more sombre observance (celebration?) in the Philippines. October 31st is All-Souls' Day, and the day is devoted to remembering deceased relatives and celebrating their memories. There is the visit to the cemetery(-ies), meeting relatives and friends (live ones), and a stop for refreshments (bud-budpan de sal and Coke). Cemeteries are fascinating places; Philippine cemeteries are not the neat affairs familiar to Canadians. Jammed full of tombs (cremation is unusual in Roman Catholic Philippines), overgrown with weeds between tombs, some decades-old sunken tombs revealing bleached bones. Tropical weather has a distinct effect on cemeteries. On arrival at the house, a small bonfire is lit in the backyard where the kids would jump over and around the fire so that the spirits of our ancestors who have attached themselves to our bodies may ride the bonfire smoke as it rises to the heavens. There would be night/midnight service later on.

On the following link is an image of one of the smaller family-owned cemeteries. The cemetery I am refering to above "houses" thousands more.

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