Celebrating All Souls Day in the Philippines
As November begins, Filipinos pause from the world’s most extended Christmas season’s festivities to commemorate the spirits of their dearly departed on “Kalag-kalag,” or All Souls’ Day.
All Souls Day in the Philippines is a combination of three celebrations: Halloween in the Philippines or All Hallows’ Eve (31 October), All Saints’ Day (1 November), and All Souls’ Day (2 November), during which families hold feasts, visit, and clean the graves of their loved ones, and pray for their spirits. Despite the holiday’s solemn nature of these celebrations of All Souls Day and All Saints Day in the Philippines, there’s a lively atmosphere in cemeteries as the people in a community are gathered together, exchanging stories from previous generations and rekindling bonds forged by their elders.
Back at home, the mood is similarly sanguine, as family members take turns preparing dishes for the feast. During All Souls Day in the Philippines, the main dishes include sinugbang isda “grilled fish”, pancit, chicken and pork adobo, and all sorts of dried or steamed fish. On the sweet side, there’s the ever-present suman, sticky kalamay hati, cheesy puto keso, kamote delight, and kutsinta. Most of these desserts served on Undas are made from glutinous rice and sugar. Making these is usually a means for family bonding. These dishes are about to be devoured at home, but it’s customary to bring servings to your loved ones’ graves.
Heading out to the cemetery on All Souls’ Day is usually an ordeal set in the late afternoon to early evening. However, many choose to visit during the brisk, monsoon-season mornings or later at night, when the surroundings invite quiet contemplation. There is no strict dress code, but people can wear memorial t-shirts or clothes with special significance. If you’re planning to stay awhile at the cemetery, it’s smart to bring something to sit on and ready some snacks and drinks.
Memorial flowers and bouquets are a quintessential offering for All Souls Day in the Philippines, so make sure you visit a florist, as they recognize the special meanings in the type and arrangement of flowers. Among the popular flower choices, for example, anthuriums stand for hospitality and welcoming the spirits of your dead, roses symbolize the love that extends to the afterlife, chrysanthemums mean loyalty, and carnations are symbols of affection and joy. You can get them arranged in matching or multiple colors to fit your tastes further.
Cemeteries are usually swarming with visitors for the whole week adjacent to Kalag-kalag. Before you even enter the hallowed grounds, you’ll encounter shops and vendors outside with last-minute offerings such as flowers, candles, lighters or matches, and even toys to keep young kids busy. Caretakers, either official staff or hired freelancers, also patrol the cemetery to repair broken headstones, cut overgrown grass, and repaint the graves’ lettering for a fee. While they work to beautify the memorials of other families’, these caretakers also have they’re own departed to celebrate.
While the tradition of Kalag-kalag can last up to a week, the national government traditionally mark the 1st-2nd of November as special non-working holidays to free up everyone’s schedules and allow people living far from home time to commute to their families.
The tradition of All Souls Day in the Philippines is a much-cherished fixture of life, a few things are held more closely by Filipinos than the memory of their loved ones. It’s a poignant moment to see Filipino society, which is usually loud and cheerful, wind down, and reflect on holidays most hallowed. As Kalag-kalag draws near, there approaches another opportunity to reminisce on life a year ago and find gratitude for the blessings that family and friends have shared since then. We hope you have a pleasant Kalag-kalag bayan!
What do your family do bayan during the All Souls Day and All Saints Day in the Philippines? Do you prepare a significant celebration of this type? Please leave a comment below of what activities you do during this time.
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