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International Day of the Dead Observances

When it comes to the Day of the Dead holiday, Mexico and the United States are not the only places to observe the holiday. For instance, a handful of European countries have embraced the Day of the Dead. In Prague, Czech Republic , locals wear masks. Sugar skulls and candles are also significant parts of their holiday. In Wellington, New Zealand, altars created in honor of the deceased are built throughout the city with flowers and gifts laid about them. Other international examples are listed in this article.

Haitians combine voodoo traditions with the Roman Catholic version of the Day of the Dead. The celebrations, which take place at cemeteries last all night long with the banging of loud drums and playing of vibrant music. A Haitian tradition is to awaken Baron Samedi, known as the “Loa of the Dead.” In addition to waking Samedi, locals hope to raise the rest of his family, which are called the Gede.

The Day of Dead in Guatemala brings the creation of giant kites meant to take into flight in honor of the holiday. Traditionally, family members pay visits to the gravesites of their ancestors.

The Day of the Dead in Brazil is called “Finados” and is celebrated on November 2nd. People often pay a visit to churches and cemeteries, usually with flowers and candles as offerings. Prayer is also an important part of the celebration. There is a sense of positivity surrounding the holiday, as it is meant to pay respect to the dead.

In La Paz, Bolivia, the locals celebrate Dia de los Natitas (Day of the Skulls), which consists of a festival that takes place on November 9th. The tradition dates back to pre-Columbian times, as it was commonplace to share a day with the bones of your ancestors on the 3rd year after they were laid to rest. Today, the emphasis of the festival is now placed on the skulls. It is tradition that the skulls of one or more family members are given a place within the household. It is then the responsibility of the family to look after the skull and protect it for the duration of one year. When November 9th rolls around, the family then places a crown of fresh flowers on the skull. Offerings are also a large part of the holiday, where coca leaves, alcohol, tobacco, and other items are quite popular. Another practice associated with this holiday is to take the skulls of loved ones to the central cemetery located in La Paz to undergo a special mass and blessing.

In the Philippines, the Day of the Dead translates into Araw ng mga Patay, which focuses on creating a “family reunion” type of experience. Flowers are laid on graves that have been cleaned or repainted. Candles are lit in the honor of loved ones. During this time, it is not uncommon to find entire families spending a night or two, camping out close to the tombs of their relatives. The cemetery often becomes a collection of families who are playing cards, eating, drinking, singing, and dancing the night away. Joining Christmas and Holy Week, the Day of the Dead is a highly regarded holiday within the Filipino culture.