Day of the Dead Celebration in Haiti

The day of the dead might strike the ignorant as a macabre event, especially in Haiti where the November 1st and 2nd celebration is intricately linked with Vodou. But the practice, shared by other countries such as Mexico and Guatemala, with roots as far-reaching into history the Aztec civilization, though called by other names in different locales, is not so much a dark, pagan ritual as a joyous celebration of the life of lost ancestors.

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Hundreds of practitioners of the Vodou and Christian persuasion flock cemeteries and light homemade candles, strew flowers, and offer food and alcohol to the spirits Ghede and Baron Samdi. And since Vodou's legalization in 2003, the ceremonies have become more accessible and certainly more attractive to tourists wanting to witness the cultural spectacle.

Painted faces, meant to portray death, act as a mask behind which people may become inhabited by dead spirits seeking offerings. But even without this guise, many fall under the spell wrought by hundreds of years of tradition and the wildness of the crowd is excused by the rowdiness of the spirits believed to walk among the living, indistinguishable from the white, black or purple dressed 'breathers' among them.

But, alongside scenes of genitals being bathed in peppered wine and sometimes open scenes of copulation are traditions like the feeding of the poor. Before the celebrators eat, food and drink is issued to the poor and begging. When these disenfranchised are fed, the gorging of the revelers on food, liquor and fun begins; the days that start with homage and praying then morph into dance-filled fetes, all with the memory of our dearly departed in mind.

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Read more: Voodoo, Ghede, Day of the Dead, Lwa, dead, Baron Samedi, Holiday

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