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Undas: Remembering the Departed Ones

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All Soul’s Day (sometimes called the “Day of the Dead”) is a Roman Catholic day of remembrance for friends and loved ones who have passed away. This comes from the ancient Pagan Festival of the Dead, which celebrated the Pagan belief that the souls of the dead would return for a meal with the family. It is also believe that candles in the window would guide the souls back home and children would come through the village, asking for food to be offered symbolically to the dead, and then donated to feed the hungry.

The customs and traditions associated with All Soul’s Day are various and differ from culture to culture. It is the common belief that the dead partake of the food in spirit which the living eat later. Therefore an altar is prepared at home with an offering of food upon it. The offerings are beautifully arranged with flowers such as marigolds which are the traditional flower of the dead. Flowers serve as a living memory reminding us that once these people had remained close to us and they, like us, had once been fascinated by the beauty and color of life. A candle is lit for each soul and they are also embellished in the same way. Incense, mementos, photos and other remembrances of the dead are also kept along with the offering.

In the Philippines, All Saints Day and All Souls Day are annual holidays. They are known as “Todos los Santos” or “Araw ng mga Patay”. This is the time when Pinoys take time and effort to remember departed family members and loved ones. For us Pinoys, we believed that upon death souls have not yet been cleansed of sin and praying for the souls of our loved ones will help to remove the stain of sin, and allow their souls to enter the pearly gates of heaven. In our Filipino custom, we usually bring candles, fresh flowers and sometimes bring foods that our loves ones liked when they are still alive. We also pray six Our Fathers, Hail Mary’s and Glory Be’s as part of our Novenas or “padasal”. Tombs are also cleaned or repainted and families would spend a night or two near their relatives’ tombs

In this occasion it’s not only the dead people are being remembered but also the good memories that they shared with us. Some people enjoyed this occasion because its also the time when their families spend time together and reminiscing the events which they enjoyed the most. Undas in the Philippines can also be considered as a reunion because some family members who work in the cities would definitely come home to their provinces just to visit their loved ones. It is also regard as a very important holiday by many Filipinos after Christmas and Holy Week.

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