On this date, it is common for families to attend church and visit cemeteries to place flowers and candles on the tombstones
of their deceased loved ones. - Cementerio General photos -

Published Monday, November 2, 2020

Catholic community observes
today the Day of the Dead

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

According to the Episcopal Conference, the leading organization of the Catholic Church in the country, some people tend to confuse All Souls 'Day with All Saints' Day (also called Day of the Dead).

On both days the church worships observance of those who are no longer among us, but with a different approach and with one day difference between the two rituals.

In Costa Rica, where the Catholic religion predominates culturally and sociologically, it is the custom of this that has become popular in the celebration of these days.

On Sunday, Nov. 1, the Catholic Church observed All Saints' Day. In Christian practice, the liturgical celebration begins on the night of Oct. 31 until the night of Nov. 1.

On this date, it is common for families to attend church and visit cemeteries to place flowers and candles on the tombstones of their deceased loved ones.

According to the Conference, the celebration stems from the belief that there is a powerful spiritual bond between the deceased and the living. In Catholicism, the day commemorates all who have achieved the beatific vision and have ascended to heaven.

However, this Catholic ritual tends to be confused with the Day of the Dead that is observed today in the country.

According to the Catholic Church, All Souls' Day (so-called Day of Dead) commemorates all the faithful departed, those baptized Christians who are believed to be in purgatory because they died with the guilt of minor sins on their souls.

Catholic doctrine holds that the prayers of the faithful on earth will help cleanse these souls to adapt them to the vision of God in heaven. For that reason, today Catholics dedicate themselves to prayer and remembering their deceased loved ones.

Masses are often celebrated in cemeteries and many people visit the graves of their loved ones, to leave a wreath and clean the vaults.

However, this year due to the covid-19 pandemic, most municipalities will not allow visitors to enter cemeteries.

According to the guidelines of the Ministry of Health, in case the entrance to the cemetery is allowed, only a maximum of 2 people may enter to visit the grave of their relative or loved one, all people must always use a facemask, and must respect the social distance of 1.8 meters.

In the case of private cemeteries, it will be at the discretion of the administration whether or not to allow entry to the public. For example in the case of Jardines del Recuerdo, located in Heredia, they will hold two masses in remembrance of the deceased, at 9 a.m. and noon. Due to space limitations, to maintain the rule of social distancing, only people who have previously reserved their space will be able to enter. However, the mass will be broadcast in video streaming on the Jardines del Recuerdo Facebook page.

In Costa Rica, the Day of the Dead is observed with great solemnity and mourning. However, in other countries, such as Mexico, this date is recognized worldwide for celebrating people who have died joyfully.

According to researcher and writer Mariana Anguiano, in her book "Las Tradiciones del Dia de Muertos en Mexico," (the traditions of the Day of the Dead in Mexico in the English language), the Day of the Dead is a holiday involving family and friends gathering to pray for and to remember friends and family members who have died. It is commonly portrayed as a happy day of celebration rather than mourning.

Mexican academics are divided on whether the festivity has indigenous pre-Hispanic roots or whether it is a 20th-century rebranded version of a Spanish tradition developed by the presidency of Lazaro Cardenas to encourage Mexican nationalism through an "Aztec" identity, according to Anguiano. "The festivity has become a national symbol and as such is taught in the nation's school system, typically asserting a native origin," she added.

During the Dia de Muertos people go to cemeteries to be with the souls of the departed and build private altars containing the favorite foods and beverages, as well as photos and memorabilia, of the departed. The intent is to encourage visits by the souls, so the souls will hear the prayers and the comments of the living directed to them. "Celebrations can take a humorous tone, as celebrators remember funny events and anecdotes about the departed," Anguiano said.

Which of the two ways is more appropriate to remember the dead, mourning or joyfully celebrating?  
We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments to news@amcostarica.com

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