Family History Day: a new American holiday

Would you like to celebrate a new holiday with me?

I call it Family History Day, or Ancestors Day. 

Let’s celebrate it right before Halloween with a variety of fun and somber rituals, pulled from the most popular festivals around the world:

  • Qingming festival from East Asia
  • Día de los Muertos from Mexico
  • The rituals of Shinto in Japan.

From each I have chosen the best elements and combined them together to form a truly marvelous holiday. One that, I hope, will accomplish the goal: to gain wisdom. Wisdom is an elusive foe, one that evades us all our lives. Sometimes we find it right before we die or after a great tragedy, but none of us have it on a daily basis. This holiday is an attempt to find wisdom every year by seeking out those in our past who had it, for just a brief moment. It also formalizes the search into a ritual that can teach us about family, honor, and respect. Here is how other cultures celebrate.

Qingming

The Qingming Festival, often called Ancestors Day, occurs on the Spring Equinox, usually around April 15, and is celebrated in many countries from China to Cambodia. “Celebrants remember and honour their ancestors at grave sites. Young and old pray before the ancestors, sweep the tombs and offer food, tea, wine, chopsticks, paper accessories, and/or libations to the ancestors.” “It is also the time when young couples start courting. Families go on outings.” There is also a rich history of honoring ones ancestors through poetry and painting.

English Translation:

The ceaseless drizzle drips all the dismal day, So broken-hearted fares the traveler on the way. When asked where could be found a tavern bower, A cowboy points to yonder village of the apricot flower.

Día de loe Muertos

Día de los Muertos, translates as Day of the Dead, is celebrated in Mexico over two days, November 1-2. The first day honors children and second honors deceased relatives. It is a fun and morbid holiday that celebrates death with joy. Families create candy and treats for children in the shape of skulls and skeletons.

Young ones get involved with costumes and skeleton dolls at parties with dancing and music. Adults visit cemeteries to “build private altars containing the favorite foods and beverages as well as photos and memorabilia of the departed.” Celebrated on the Catholic holiday All Souls Day, the intent is to encourage visits by the souls, so that they will hear the prayers and the comments of the living directed to them. Celebrations can take a humorous tone, as celebrants remember funny events and anecdotes about the departed.

Shinto

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