A bit of history: November 1st is All Saints’ Day, a Roman Catholic holiday that dates from the Middle Ages when Pope Gregory IV declared this date a feast day to commemorate saints in Heaven. It’s a national holiday here in Guatemala that is marked by cemetery decoration and flying kites. Here’s a bit of description of the days activities by Kevin L. Cole in “Que Pasa” magazine:
Cemetery Decoration: On this day the cemetery serves as a meeting place as family members gather to remember loved ones and decorate cemetery plots. Cemeteries are full of life on All Saints’ Day.
Kites: Kites of all sizes are flown on All Saints’ Day. According to tradition, kits are flown to raise the souls of the dead to heaven and to turn away evil spirits. Some believe they can communicate with their dead and send good messages to them on the kites. Most kites display all the colors of the rainbow to communicate messages of happiness.
This November 1st, All Saints’ Day became personal for our family. Four months ago, our baby Mayela was still born at 40 weeks (June of this year). Julio & I decided to go to her grave site with Samaya & Genesis, our two daughters. This is the first time we have gone to the cemetery since the burial; the first time ever for the girls. We entered the cemetery with flowers and headed towards our plot. We were in good company, hundreds of people were also adorning graves as kites flew overhead. The noise of the kites as they flew in the wind was a cheerful sound. Samaya & Genesis eagerly helped us clean up the plot (there are no caretakers) and place vases of fresh flowers for their little sister.
Today we joined the Guatemalan community in their tradition of remembering loved ones. It is good to remember, to cry & to celebrate life & death. All Saints’ Day took on new meaning today. Along with Mayela, we also remembered the lives of Bin Laden & Marcia – two friends who passed away last year here in Xela.