Whether it’s the flowers, candles, kites, lanterns, or special food, BYU-Hawaii students shared various traditions on All Saints Day from their home countries.
Flying barriletes (kite) and preparing fiambre are the highlights of Dia de los Santos (Day of Saints) in Guatemala, according to José Gómez, a business management junior from Guatemala.
Gómez said he was 12 years old when he first flew a barriletes. He said, “I didn’t like it because it was hard, but I enjoyed it.” According to Cultural Survival, barriletes were “created by Mayas to ward off bad spirits on All Saints Day, the day in which the deceased were allowed to visit the human world.” The tradition of flying barriletes takes place in the neighboring towns of Santiago Sacatepequez and Sumpango.
Years have passed and the purpose of flying barriletes changed. In a CNN statement, the Cultural Development Association of Santiago (ASODEC) said, “The motifs used in the kites do not correspond in any way to some sort of symbolism used communicate with the dead. The kites are used to promote feelings of peace and companionship for the living.”
According to Revue Magazine, a traditional meal called fíambre, a cold salad, is prepared on All Saints Day. The average number of ingredients is 50 which includes pork, chicken, cured meats, pickled vegetables, and pacaya flower, a bud that grows on palm trees native to Guatemala.
Fíambre symbolizes kinship, Revue Magazine reports.. The recipe is passed on from generation to generation, and everyone is “expected to contribute to the preparation days in advance by supplying ingredients, slicing and pickling vegetables, and grilling meats.”
Gómez said, “[Fíambre] is only prepared on All Saints Day. I really don’t like it because it doesn’t taste good.”
In the northern part of Sweden, All Saints Day mark the first day of winter, according to Sweden SE. “Candles enlighten the darkness in Sweden during All Saints Day,” said Stephanie Eldenberg, a freshman majoring in art from Sweden. She explained how dark it is in Sweden during winter time, so light is very important.
Sweden SE reports people lay flowers and wreaths on graves and there are countless points of light from the candles and lanterns placed on graves. They form beautiful patterns in the snow.
Churches conduct a mini program featuring a musical performance, said Eldenberg. “We go to the cemetery and light candles, usually in a lantern or glass holder so the candle burns all night.”
Most Swedes take the day off on All Saints Day, and those who don’t visit cemeteries usually stay at home with the family, according to Sweden SE.
As a family, Eldenberg said she would go with her grandma and grandpa to the graveyard and eat dinner together. In relation to All Saints Day, Eldenberg said Halloween was a recent addition in Sweden, and they didn’t have it for a long time.
The closest equivalent of All Saints Day in Japan is Obon, said Maki Ogawa, an international cultural studies senior from Japan. According to World Religion News, Obon is a three-day Buddhist celebration every Aug. 13-16 of the lunar calendar to honor the dead and spirits of their ancestors. But other regions, particularly those using the modern Gregorian calendar like Tokyo, observe obon on July 13-15.
The World Religion News says, “The Japanese believe that at the start of Obon, the spirits of their relatives and ancestors come back to the physical world and visit them,”
Ogawa shared their family tradition during obon. She said, “Sushi is always present. But before we eat, as soon as we get to my grandma’s house, we go straight to the Buddhist room where photos of our ancestors are hung around. We ring the bell, worship the Butsudan (Buddhist altar), and we run outside to eat.”
Aside from Obon, Ogawa said they also go to the cemetery and put some treats their ancestors used to like on the grave. They clean their relatives’ graves and decorate them with flowers. Ogawa explained, even though Obon is not a public holiday, almost everyone takes the three days off and many companies close.
On the last day of Obon, “The departure of ancestral spirits is marked with fire,” according to Japan Talk. The World Religion News explains, “Aside from offering prayers and holding memorial services at Buddhist temples, individual houses and establishments hang lanterns believing that their lights will guide the spirits.”
Lani Tafili, a political science major from Samoa, said there is no specific day they go to the grave of their relatives, and talking to their relatives who passed away is not in their culture.
According to Tafili, behind their house in Samoa is a cemetery. She said, “Visiting the grave is like an everyday thing for us. We maintain it, and we can go anytime we want. If you feel like it or if you see grass growing, you can go.”
Tafili shared the things they do whenever they visit the cemetery. She said, “I pull out weeds from the grass to make it look neat, repaint the grave, sweep, and put flowers for my dead relatives. We’re doing this because we want it to look clean and presentable.
“If a friend of mine will visit the grave of my grandpa, I need to make sure the vase of the flowers is clean. If I see any dirt, I need to wash it before putting it back on the grave to show respect to the dead.”
The preparation for All Saints Day in the Philippines begins a few days before the actual day of celebration, according to Biyaheng Juan Sided. Family members go to public markets to buy ingredients for food, different colors and shapes of candles, and arranged sets of flowers.
During All Saints Day, Filipinos remember their dead relatives, clean the graves, and decorate them with flowers and candles, explained Mark Eyo, a TESOL and political science major from the Philippines. “Everyone goes to the cemetery, and some even stay overnight. We try to treat our dead relatives special by repainting the roof and grills of their mausoleum,” he continued.
According to Hub Pages, one Filipino All Saints Day tradition is the 9-day novena, prayer in tribute to the dead. The eight days of the novena are prayed at home, and the last day is prayed at the cemetery where a priest is invited to give a mass.
Eyo said All Saints Day is a family gathering in the Philippines. They celebrate by eating, singing, taking pictures, and playing cards. He shared, “All Saints Day takes place every semestral break of students, which makes it special. Because there are no classes and most establishments are closed. Classes always resume on Nov. 3.”
Growing up in a Muslim country, Florencia Sindoro, a junior studying political science from Indonesia, said there is no specific day for them to go to the cemetery because it changes every year and they don’t really consider it special.
When asked about the highlight of their visit, Sindoro said people sell flowers on the street for cheap price. She shared, “Eid Mubarak is the day we go to the cemetery to visit family members who passed away and put flowers on the grave. The elderly people tell us not to go out at night because of the bad spirits.”