Death is one of the only inevitable parts of life. That means that all of us at some time or another will experience the death of someone close to us and the grief, and tsunami of other emotions that comes with it. For those who love to travel, consider commemorating the life of a dearly departed by visiting global destinations with festivals to honor loved ones.
Global Destinations to Honor Loved Ones
Of course, we all grieve in our own way, and compassion for ourselves is paramount at the time.
Yet, all around the globe, festivals and celebrations are held annually to celebrate and remember the beloved departed.
For some, visiting these locations and experiencing such festivals is a way both to honor their passed loved ones, and expand their understanding, beliefs, and traditions around death. Keep reading to find out more about these festivals and the locations in which they happen.
Anywhere (including home)
First of all, you don’t have to travel the world to honor passed loved ones. Grief can be a tricky thing to manage, and sometimes staying home and being surrounded by love and support can be the best thing.
There are plenty of things you can do to honor passed loved ones at home as well, including holding a memorial for them or paying a visit to the cemetery.
Some people even choose to get items like the ones from Cremation Jewelry from Memorials.com to keep a piece of their loved one with them at all times.
Then, whether they choose to travel the globe like the examples below, or stay closer to home, they will always have an ever-present reminder of the loved one that is no longer with them.
Día de Muertos – México
Probably the most famous of the festivals celebrating those that have passed is Día de Muertos, occurring on the second of November every year.
Día de Muertos translates as Day of the Dead and is preceded by Día de Los Angelitos which means Day of the Little Angels, a time dedicated to celebrating the lives and memories of babies and children that passed before they reached adulthood.
You would, of course, expect such celebrations to be grief-stricken and somber, yet this is not the case.
Día de Muertos very much has a festive atmosphere with plenty of bright colors, dancing, music, and celebrational food. Atoles is a popular drink during this season. Made from corn, this drink dates back to the Aztec period. Sweetbread known as Pan de Murto is also hugely popular during this season, some even make it from potato flour and it is usually decorated with a skull or bones design.
Sugar skulls and other death-themed folk art are popular decorations at this time. This symbolism has found its way into western culture as well. It’s not only Mexico that celebrates these two death-honoring festivals either.
The truth is that Día de Muertos celebrations happen across Latin America. Each area has its own special traditions from sugar bread, Ofrenda (offerings), flowers, and even kites!
Hungry Ghost Festival – China
Another famous death-honoring festival is known as the Hungry Ghost Festival and happens across China.
Be warned though this festival happens at different times of the year on the Western calendar so if you plan to make a trip to be part of it it’s vital you check the dates first.
The Hungry Ghost Festival is also known by the Taoists as Zhongyuan (中元节). Buddhists as Yulanpen and is celebrated by both religions.
Unlike Día de Muertos, this festival is less of a celebration and more of a combination of protection and remembrance.
In particular, those taking part in the festival hope to appease the spirits of dead relatives and secure protection from their anger.
One way is to burn offerings made from paper, said to represent good things that those living wish to send to the dead.
Beautiful paper lanterns are also released during the festival as they are beloved to help any wayward spirit find its way back to the afterlife.
Pchum Ben – Cambodia
During the months of September and October, Cambodians believe that the barrier between the living world and the afterlife is the thinnest. This is when the deceased return to the world of living to atone for their sins and visit loved ones.
At this time, the Chinese celebrate and honor their dead in the festivals of Kan Ben and Pchum Ben.
Kan Ben lasts for 14 days and is focused on respecting and mourning the dead. This precedes the single day of celebration in Cambodia, known as Pchum Ben. This is where people get together and offer food to the souls of the dead.
Typical food offerings include Bay Ben rice balls rolled with the palm of the hand, as well as sticky rice cakes wrapped in leaves and a variety of other fare.
Totensonntag – Germany
Totensonntag translates as Sunday of the Dead is a time where German Protestants come together to honor the dead. They do this by visiting the gravesides of their deceased loved ones and in stark contrast to many of the festivals described above. Totensonntag does not tend to be a celebratory day, but a sobering experience where music and dancing are actively avoided.
Thursday of the Dead – Eastern Mediterranean
In the Eastern Mediterranean, there is an annual celebration honoring those passed, called Thursday of the Dead. It is, unsurprisingly, hosted on a Thursday morning close to Easter and is an amalgam of Muslim and Christian traditions typical of the location.
Thursday of the Dead is also known as Thursday of the Eggs, Thursday of the Sweetness, and even Thursday of the Secrets. Traditionally all sorts of yummy treats such as sweet bread are given out for everyone to families of the deceased, as well as children.
Formally celebrating and honoring the dead isn’t for everyone. However, it can be a wonderful way to honor loved ones passed, while also reaffirming the vast wonder and variety of life for those they left behind.