Thursday, August 05, 2021

Editorial: Day of the dead

EVERY end of October, malls and other public establishments in the Philippines are decorated with different spooky items -- fake cobwebs, spiders, white ladies, different gory items, etc. Sometimes because the Philippines practically start Christmas with the entry of -ber month, the Halloween decorations even coincide with the Christmas decorations.

Some establishments and private subdivisions and villages also conduct Trick and Treat activities for little kids, much like the Western tradition. Contrary to popular belief that it is an American tradition, Trick and Treat can be traced back to Celtic Britain and Ireland as early as the 9th century.

According to, October 31 used to be called Samhain, a Pagan festival that believes that the souls of the dead come into the world and was appeased by the living by offering them with food and drinks. It was only in the 1920s when America adopted it with the trick and treat tradition, making it a more fun activity for the kids.

In the Philippines, we are fond of copying Western traditions without really understanding why they are being observed in the first place.

It was just later on combined with the Christian belief of celebrating the lives of the holy saints (November 1) and the souls of the dead loved ones (November 2) or in the Philippines we call it Undas. We often forget that November 1 is a Christian holiday celebrating and commemorating the lives of the people who have lived and who followed and served the Lord even if sometimes it means risking their own lives.

There are many saints for different prayer concerns and life issues that devotees, especially the Catholics, believe would help them pray to God.

On the other hand, November 2, All Souls' Day, is supposed to be the day Filipinos visit their departed loved ones in the cemetery. Ideally, they come together to pray for the souls of the loved ones. It is the time of the year to remember and to pray for them. However, Filipinos forget and it just becomes a few days of horror, partying, and dressing up.

Perhaps, a very Filipino event during Undas is family reunion. Cousins, aunts and uncles, and grandchildren gather in the cemetery or in the grandparents' house to catch up and eat together. Some still do that but this beautiful tradition also starts to slowly fade and is being overtaken by Western tradition such as trick-and-treat.

There is nothing wrong with having fun and seeing the kids dress up for the holidays but it would not hurt if we also pay respect for those whom these holidays are really intended for. If you're a practicing Catholic, it wouldn't hurt to give a time off to reflect on the life of the saints. If you have a departed loved one, make time to visit their grave, pray for them, and spend some time with your family.


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