Now that Halloween has passed, and the ghosts and ghouls have put away their costumes, it’s time for a true celebration of the dearly departed: All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day. Much like El Día de Los Muertos in Mexico, these important cultural holidays are celebrated on November 1st and 2nd in the Philippines, and offer an opportunity for families to gather and honor their ancestors in a joyful, respectful way.
Each year when I was growing up, my family would go to the cemetery on November 1st. Like so many other Filipinos, we would gather together at the grave sites of our ancestors to pay respects and to remember our loved ones. Together, we’d spend hours at our family’s graves, sometimes even pitching a tent and camping overnight. The event was like a party; a chance to spend time with family (living and dead), and recall fond memories of relatives who’d passed away. The gravestones would be decorated with offerings like flowers, candles, and even food - we’d prepare our departed loved ones’ favorite dishes and enjoy them together, leaving a bowl at each grave. As eerie as it may sound to spend the night in a cemetery, these holidays were never sad or scary - they were a joyful celebration of life!
clockwise, from top left: Val's aunt, dad, and mom; Val's nieces at a family gravesite; Val's uncle's gravestone; Val's great-grandparents
Living in the United States, these holidays aren’t celebrated in quite the same way as they are in the Philippines, and as our girls get older, we’d like to find a way to introduce them to the custom. We felt particularly inspired after seeing Coco recently - the movie was such a beautiful and heartwarming depiction of this tradition, and it offered an approachable way to introduce children to the concept of honoring the people who came before us.
As it happens, November 1st is also our youngest daughter’s birthday, so today we’ll be out celebrating her big day with our family, friends, and neighbors. But between playing and laughing together, we’ll be sure to take some time to talk about our departed loved ones and share our fondest memories - and maybe we’ll even save them a slice of cake.