Today, November 1, is All Saints Day in Christian traditions. When I was a pastor, the Sunday closest to this date was reserved for honoring those who died during the previous year. We’d read the names of those who died and toll the bell. I never knew what to expect for attendance. People either came to remember or didn’t come because they didn’t want to be reminded. It’s interesting what death brings out in people.
Many cultures have traditions during various times of the year for honoring those who have died. Mexico has Día de los Muertos in México. Although Mexico predominantly observes Catholicism, Día de los Meurtos harkens back to an indigenous Aztec festival. The Japanese honor the departed spirits of ancestors during the O-bon Festival. The O-bon Festival has Buddhist origins, but the Japanese United Methodist Church I served celebrated the O-bon Festival every August. It’s interesting how people blend traditions together.
We have three cemeteries in our small town. The oldest cemetery, Der Friedhof, was established in 1846 when the first German pioneers settled here. Then there’s the Catholic cemetery. A Catholic church was started in 1850 and so consecrated their own cemetery on the other side of town. The third cemetery is the most beautiful with large trees and grass (I’m not sure how the grass stayed so green with our severe-drought water restrictions. A special dispensation?). I consider it the leftover cemetery for those who are neither from pioneer families or Catholic. It’s interesting how even in death there are barriers.