Fall Memorial Traditions from Across the Globe
The autumn winds bring about a beautiful transition from summer to fall. As we say goodbye to the heightened heat of summer and look ahead to new horizons, we’re provided with an opportunity to reflect on the natural transitions of our lives. From New Year’s Day to Labor Day, the year has brought a combination of highs and lows, the forging of new relationships, and possibly the loss of others. During this unique window in time, many cultures worldwide pause to acknowledge, memorialize, and celebrate those who have passed.
Día de Los Muertos
Dia de Los Muertos (The Day of the Dead) is a Mexican holiday that honors those who have passed with a two-day celebration of life. During the first two days of November, Mexicans commemorate their departed loved ones by building candlelit altars to call their spirits back home to the land of the living. The lighted candles are a beacon that guides the spirits back into the arms of their families and friends. The souls of the deceased are welcomed back to the brief reunion with food, drinks, and a jubilant celebration. Día de Los Muertos is a unique blend of European religion, Spanish culture, and Mesoamerican ritual. On October 31st, the gates of heaven open at midnight to allow the spirits of children to rejoin their families for the next twenty-four hours. The spirits of adults follow on November 2nd.
Most Day of the Dead festivities include wearing skull masks and eating sugar candy formed into the shape of skulls. The traditional treat of Dia de Los Muertos is pan de muerto - a sweet baked bread to nourish the dead upon their return. People can wish each other “Feliz Dia de Los Muertos” or happy Day of the Dead!
Obon, or The Bon Festival, is a traditional Japanese holiday celebrating lost loved ones. Even though the holiday is observed in late summer, from August 13th to 16th in Japan, it offers a unique mix of Halloween and Thanksgiving traditions. Families celebrating Obon gather in their hometowns, attend festivals, visit gravesites, and perform rituals. Before Obon begins, it is customary to clean one’s home and prepare meals in anticipation of the return of ancestral spirits. The festival begins with lighting candles and lanterns in front of homes. Like Dia de Los Muertos, the light guides spirits back home. Families also make offerings at temples and gravesites. On the second day, people perform joyful folk dances called bon odori, which celebrate the return of spirits. Hundreds and even thousands of paper lanterns are set sail on lakes, streams, and even the ocean to help guide the spirits back to their final resting place. On the last day, families clean up gravesites and say goodbye to their loved ones until next year.
Charye is a form of Korean ancestral memorial rites celebrated during the Korean autumnal holiday called Chuseok. Like Thanksgiving, Chuseok symbolizes the abundance of the harvest season and is celebrated by a feast of foods. It also honors departed ancestors and loved ones. Commemorating ancestors is a huge part of Korean culture. Traditional foods are prepared and brought to a family member’s home, such as the eldest son, or an ancestral grave site. A shrine is erected, and a shinwi is placed on it. A shinwi is a memorial tablet containing a written prayer and a photo that symbolizes the spiritual presence of the departed. Before the meal is eaten, the family ceremonially bows in front of the shrine in a particular order. They will also burn paper with the departed’s name on it. If the ceremony takes place at the gravesite, the family will clean the site out of respect. Lastly, they will offer one final bow before leaving.
How You Can Honor Your Late Loved Ones This Autumn
Creating autumn memorial traditions can strengthen family bonds. Even if your loved one has departed this Earth, you can still include them in a meaningful ritual. Whether the anniversary of their passing is in the spring or winter, fall can be a beautiful time to commemorate the incredible life they lived. Fall is a powerful symbol of transformation. While most people think of spring as a time for cultivating trees and flowers, fall is a wonderful time for planting. Summer’s last rays of warmth have made the soil moist, allowing roots to take hold long before winter arrives. Planting a memory tree is a popular way to memorialize a loved one. Also known as remembrance trees, memory trees are planted in the name of a departed loved one. They can take the place of a gravesite or simply enhance one.
The Living Urn is the leading provider of high-quality memory tree systems in the United States and worldwide. The patented environmentally friendly Bio Urn and Planting System is a wonderful way to incorporate your departed loved one’s ashes into the growth of a new tree! There are many wonderful places to plant your tree. One of the most popular places to plant memory trees is memory forests. As a more environmentally sustainable option than traditional cemeteries, memory forests replace tombstones for trees and cemeteries for forests. Wherever you choose to plant your special tree, you can track the exact coordinates with the Ecorial® app. Even if you’ve held onto ashes for a number of years, you can still create a beautiful, vibrant memory tree. When fall arrives, visit The Living Urn store to begin your memory tree journey!
Another beautiful way to honor loved ones this fall is by getting a small cremation keepsake in their memory. There are thousands of options to choose from - from cremation jewelry to glass orbs. Check out the popular options from The Living Urn below.