On the 3rd of November, our group had a gathering at Sofia’s place for El Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) which usually begins on October 31st till November 2nd. This is the day where Mexicans and other Spanish-speaking countries have a gathering with families, relatives and loved ones to remember those who passed away.
We brought pan dulce (sweet bread) and las velas (candles), as it is a tradition to offer them on the altar, together with other things that symbolizes fire, water, earth and wind – such as decorated paper, sugar skulls, favourite food/beverages of the deceased, as well as flowers (mainly marigolds). Not to forget, photos of the deceased are also placed on the altars.
During our gathering, we spoke of the things we would do in similar holidays – Finnish pyhäinpäivä (All Saints’ Day) and in Malaysia, we call it 清明节 (pronounced ‘ching-ming-jie’). For the Mexicans, they would visit the graves of their family members to tidy and decorate them. They would also gather around at tell stories to reminisce their memories of their loved ones. More often than not, scary ghost stories are thrown into the bunch too.
Visiting graves, tidying them and placing offerings are what we would do in Malaysian Chinese culture. As for the Finns, it is a day to visit the graves, place candles and spend some quiet time there. One thing I sincerely appreciate is that cemeteries or graveyards here in Finland are very beautiful and serene when it is filled with lit candles. Personally I rarely visit such places back in Malaysia. My family usually goes to the temple and prepares the altar at home.
It is also interesting to note that El Día de los Muertos is not just a day to remember and honour the dead, but it is also a celebration of life. Hence the colourful decorations and in some places, music and dance are involved as well.
Before we left, we managed to have a few rounds of vocabulary game in Spanish and Finnish, where one person has to say a word that starts with the last letter of the word that was mentioned by the previous person in the circle.
And that was how we celebrated El Día de los Muertos in Finland.
Blog post and photos by: Chrystal Giam, 13Media