7 Ways Different Cultures Around The World Honor The Dead


According to 2017 estimates, the number of people who pass away each day reach around 150,000. That is approximately 54.8 million deaths across the globe on a yearly basis. And there are different ways wherein cultures from the world over honor the dead — from the use of Memorial wind chimes to offering the favorite meals of the deceased. Here are seven of them.

Christians’ All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day. Christian denominations celebrate the dead, the martyrs and saints through these commemorations held every November 1 and 2. These events are marked by activities like attending masses and visiting the graveyard and placing candles and flowers on the deceased’s tomb. Once a person dies, people also send their condolences by giving sympathy gifts like memorial wind chimes.

Latin Americans’ El Día de los Muertos. Called as The Day of the Dead, this is the Latin American counterpart of Christian’s All Soul’s Day. This commemoration is best depicted in the hit movie, Coco: Celebrated between October 1 and November 2, families honor the dead by making and decorating ofrendas or altars with the deceased’s photos and favorite meals. This rather colorful celebration also sees observers visit the cemetery, and hold merry-making activities.

Japanese’s Bon Festival. Happening every 15th of the seventh lunar month, this festival coincides at the time when spirits of the dead are believed to revisit the world of the living. During this occasion, the Japanese hold family reunions, light lanterns and hang them on the streets to help guide the spirits back to their homes.

Chinese’s Hungry Ghost Festival. Known in China as Zhongyuan, this celebration takes place during the seventh lunar month of the Chinese calendar. Believers claim that this is a period wherein restless spirits roam around — and for them to be appeased, foods are offered and special paper-made items are burned. The highlight of this event is the 15th day, wherein the offerings are burned on the streets. There is also a musical celebration to entertain the spirits of the dead. On a side note, the tradition of hanging wind chimes (including memorial wind chimes) was also observed by ancient Chinese, believing that these chimes help calm the spirits.

Cambodia – Pchum Ben Festival. In this festival, Cambodians congregate in their pagodas or temples and make food and drink offerings for the dead. These offerings are said to help ease the sufferings experienced by the deceased. This observance occurs for half a month, and falls around mid-September and October.

Indonesia – Ngaben. This funeral ritual is observed by Hindu faiths in Indonesia; it’s a way to release the soul from the body of the deceased. After the soul is released, it enters the upper realm where it waits before it gets reincarnated. This is a rather festive cremation that can happen either after the immediate passing of a person or whenever the family is financially ready to hold the occasion.

Hindu’s Pitru Paksha. Observed by Hindu believers, Pitru Paksha is a festival that takes place around September (which coincides with the lunar month of Asvina in the Indian calendar). During this month, people embark on a pilgrimage and observe abstinence. They also hold rituals that feature food offerings.

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