Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Uniquely Filipino.

While the western world celebrate Halloween as a day of fear for the living, (to ward off evil they made their houses cold and uninviting and dressed themselves as witches, ghouls and goblins to scare them away) we, in this part of the globe celebrate it as All Souls Day. A day of remembrance for all dear souls departed.

Come every November 1st, you will be amazed at how memorial parks and cemetery feels like a public park, or a fancy subdivision than what it truly is. The atmosphere; manicured rolling greens lawns, big beautiful trees, a fertile landscape, beautiful terrain, combined with families practically frolicking beside the graves of their relatives - is not just serene, but nearly pleasant.

All cemeteries throughout the Philippines is packed with Filipinos visiting the graves of their loved ones during this day. You will see a family walks down a foot path, carrying bottles of soda, plastic tubs food, a blanket and a guitar. Or another family who would gathered around a tree with the father and his two kids tossing a ball back and forth while mom sits in a chair eating. Nearby another family would have spread out their things, their kids playing badminton while the parents light a barbecue.

Yes, it's an event that defies description, especially when certain sight will remind you exactly where you are. The head stones hint of so many stories, many lives that have, in their own small way and in such a brief time, brought the world to where it is today.

But even with those glaring headstones, memorial parks on ALL Souls Day have a carnival-like atmosphere. There cannot be too many places on earth where people literally hold family parties on top of the grave of their dead relatives. Yes it's no big deal for us Filipinos because its just the way it is, and we don't think that having a party like atmosphere in the cemetery is anything unique. But any outsider would definitely say it is, well, different.

I know where you come from, cemeteries are so solemn as to be practically morbid. And maybe you spend as little time as possible there. Perhaps to think of enjoying oneself inside a cemetery is a serious no-no.

But this is our unique Filipino custom. Instead of celebrating Halloween dressed in scary costume and doing trick or treat, we honor our dead by spending the whole day with them and do the things that we would do together if they are still alive - eat, sing, play, gossip and laugh!

And yes, everyone is always welcome to party with us.


Tracey said...

Yep...that's strange! Nothing surprises me any more though, since reading all these blogs from around the world I've learned so much about different lives & cultures! XXX

Anonymous said...

I am from the western world where we trick or treat and dress up. It is quite fun for the kids and for me, but what you do in your culture actually sounds quite beautiful. I think to often in our culture there is a detachment from loved ones. I am very close to my family, and it has been hard when I have lost some of them, but I like that in your culture you celebrate what they brought to your life, and remember them every year. That certainly would help with the grieving and help to continue living in a healthy way. We do sort of have a fear of cemetaries, I don't know if I could hang out there, but I could definitely enjoy a day to remember and celebrate loved ones who have passed. What a great part of your culture.

Jenni @ nest to keep said...

Hi Odette,
I did not know this about where you live, and think it sounds very interesting. Certainly a much better idea than going crazy with the "scary" side of Halloween, which I just can't get into. Making banners or frames with the words "eek" and "boo" is about as far as I want to go into scary. :) Do you celebrate the harvest side of fall in the Philippines? I LOVE that part~ the pumpkins and scarecrows! :)

I hope you are having a wonderful week! :)

Bubble said...

well, I have never heard of that but I think it is a great thing.


Sid Brechin said...

Halloween is All Hallow's eve or the Eve of All Saints day.

It is a strictly secular occasion. No church involved. When I was a kid it was strictly candy, costumes, and jack o lanterns.

Now it is second only to Christmas for decorations. Also adults having costume parties and especially university aged kids. I even got myself a set of glasses with skull and crossbones on them. I leave one in the washroom as the glass for washing down medicine ( pills or bad tasting stuff ).

Till he lost his sight Rocky would get in a costume ( He's been underdog and a Wizard dog ) I would make up a bunch of treat bags. ( where I live we get no trick or treaters ) four kinds little girls, boys, adult males, females. I take him out for about an hour and we would hand them out. Kids were always polite but the adults were almost shocked and would walk away happily checking out the pens, candy, ear rings, lipstick and things like that in their goody bags.

Since he lost his sight he is very leary of wearing anything but his collar and leash.


I think i love your way more! That way family stories can be passed on and the person is kept alive in everyones hearts and minds :)

Odette said...

It's not all party, but we also adorn their graves with beautiful flowers and lit candles and pray. quite often a mass will be held inside the cemetery in the morning. we dont don any scary costume though nor decorate our houses with halloween decor.

Angry American said...

Here in the states we have a Halloween cemetary tradition too. Back in the day, kids (and adults) used to believe that the best time to see a ghost was in a grave yard on Halloween night. Thanks to shows like Sci-Fi's "Ghost Hunter", it's become a year long tourist attraction to ghost hunt just about everywhere on earth.

I think it would be nice to be able to visit graves as a family and celibrate instead of just leaving flowers and things. But, it's just too painful for most to be happy about.

Mimi said...

Hi Odette. That is a very nice tradition!
In so. Cal. there are some very big and beautiful cemeteries. It's not at all unusual to see families with lawn chairs, balloons, and part decor having lunch next to their loved one's grave. We have such a mix of cultures here that everything just melts together and becomes a California tradition!

Jann said...

Wow that is such an amazing custom!


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