Festival of the Dead

Festival of the Dead or Feast of Ancestors[1] is held by many cultures throughout the world in honor or recognition of deceased members of the community, generally occurring after the harvest in August, September, October, or November.

In many cultures a single event, Festival of the Dead, lasting up to 3 days, was held at the end of October and beginning of November; examples include the Peruvians, the Pacific Islanders, the people of the Tonga Islands, the ancient Persians, ancient Romans, and the northern nations of Europe. [1] In the Inca religion the entire month of November is 'Ayamarca', which translates to Festival of the Dead.

The Ancient Egyptian Wag Festival took place in early August.[2] In the 21st century, European traditions mark the celebrations of Halloween. It has been thought that the three day festival of the dead is a ritualistic remembrance of the deluge in which the first night, Halloween depicts the wickedness of the world before flood. The second night then celebrates the saved who survived the deluge and the last night celebrates those who would repopulate the Earth.[3]

In Japanese Buddhist custom the festival honoring the departed (deceased) spirits of one's ancestors is known as the Bon Festival and is held in July or August.[4] This annual festival begins with participants flocking towards the ocean with gifts, messages and lit lanterns for the deceased. All of these gifts are found in small boats which are then released into the water at midnight. [5]

The Chinese and Buddhist festival is called Ghost Festival.

For the Hindus the ritual done for the dead ancestors is called Pitri Paksha. It is based on the Hindu lunar calendar and the period lasts for 15 days, falling towards the end of September. In Nepal, the popular festival of Gai Jatra honors the deceased, and is observed in the month of Bhadra, the date of which corresponds to the first day of the month of Gunla in the lunar Nepal Era calendar.

The Roman Catholic church celebrates three days of Allhallowtide from 31 October to 2 November, marking All Saints' Eve, All Saints' Day and the second of November as All Souls' Day.

The Mexican holiday celebrated at Hallowtide is called Día de muertos or Day of the Dead - prior to the Spanish colonisation and the conversion of local people to Christianity, this festival was celebrated in the summer time.[6]

See also

  • Christian, Roy (2005). Traditional Festivals, Vol. 2 [M - Z]: A Multicultural Encyclopedia, Volume 1. ABC-CLIO. pp. Original from the University of California. ISBN 978-1-57607-089-5.
  • Frazer, James George (1913). The Belief in Immortality and the Worship of the Dead. Macmillan. pp. Original from the University of California.


  1. Smyth, Charles Piazzi (1867). Life and Work at the Great Pyramid During the Months of January. Edmonston and Douglas. pp. Page 372.
  2. Grajetzki, Wolfram; Quirke, Stephen. "Festivals in the ancient Egyptian calendar". Digital Egypt for Universities. University College London. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
  3. Olcott, William Tyler (1911). Star Lore of All Ages. The Knickerbocker Press. p. 413.
  4. Yanagita. ""When" is Obon?". Spiritual dance in Midsummer Night. bonodori.net. Archived from the original on 20 February 2012. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
  5. Spann, Minnie (Summer 1906). "The Bon or Festival of the Dead". Christian Observer. 94. ProQuest 136053023.
  6. Day, Frances Ann. Latina and Latino Voices in Literature. Greenwood Publishing Group.
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