Tag Archives: mourning

Death Anniversary Celebration

Background: The informant is a 54 year old man. He was born in Pampanga, Philippines. The informant grew up as Catholic, later converting to evangelical Christianity and becoming a pastor. He was exposed to the tradition by living in the Philippines. 

Context: The context was, when driving past a funeral procession, she was reminded of the tradition she experienced as a child.


PG: “During the the 10th anniversary, you know, for catholics, for catholics, if you know, you go to, uh, a church and ask for, uh, offer a mass, you know, you go to church to tell the priest that you want, uh, offer, you want to offer a mass for your, for the death anniversary of your loved ones, right? And then after that, we have, uh, like a celebration in the house, like invite people, friends and family, you know, to, like a party. And then after, and then, but before that, you, in the morning, you know, and also part of it is you go to the cemetery and offer flowers for the anniversary, so that’s the thing.”


Informant: The 10th anniversary is a major milestone when dealing with the anniversary of a loved one. It’s a time to commemorate the dead but also celebrate the person who has died. It doesn’t appear to be a sad celebration, but rather one that is enjoying what life has to offer. 

Mine: While death is a tragic topic, the communal gathering after the death of someone, or on their anniversary, in this case, serves to dispel the tragic thoughts and focus on the happier aspects. In the Catholic tradition, the death anniversary appears to be a moment to celebrate how one has lived, rather than mourn that they are gone. Additionally, it serves as a moment in time for everyone to gather together, whether it be extended families, neighbors, or other community members. Death traditions can actually serve to bring together people the most. Flowers are a traditional gift to leave on gravestones, once again counter to the idea of life ending, as flowers typically symbolize life. By giving flowers on the gravestone, it’s as if they are bringing the dead person back to life for the day, so that they are able to celebrate with them.

Filipino All Saints Day 

Background: The informant is a 54 year old man. He was born in Pampanga, Philippines. The informant grew up as Catholic, later converting to evangelical Christianity and becoming a pastor. He was exposed to the tradition by living in the Philippines. 

Context: The context was, calling the informant on the phone and asking him about his religious traditions or experiences.


PG: All Saints Day, All Saints Day, is November 1st, because trick or trick is October 31

Me: Is All Saints Day kind of like your day of the dead?

PG: Day of the Dead, is like, is like the entire cemetery is full pack is like people goes there they’re like having a celebration you know fiesta is like celebration right? Yeah we fiesta, we piesta, we celebrate, it’s like a party. All saints day, all people goes to the cemetery we don’t do it in the house everyone goes there and all cemetery all over the world is full of people they edo the party there they bring boombox.

Me: You know how on day of the dead people create offriendas, the shrine looking things, do you guys do that”

PG: “Shrine looking thing? No, they just bring flowers and candles and make them lit all day”


Informant: For the informant, he seems very excited about All Saint’s Day and what it entails. It is a celebration of life and death.

Mine: in this celebration, it is significant because it crosses between life and death. There is no boundary to the celebration. Normally, secretaries are associated with dreary activities, but during this holiday, it completely changes the stereotype of it. Everything is lively and it changes the usual opinion on death. Death doesn’t always need to be something to be mourned but can also be celebrated because the person has lived a good long life. Traditions can make someone reexamine the context of something and see it from a new perspective.

Mourning All Day and Night

Background: The informant is a 59 year old woman. She was born in Pampanga, Philippines and moved to Los Angeles when she was 29-years-old. The informant still frequently speaks to her family and occasionally visits her family in the Philippines. The informant grew up as Catholic in the Philippines, converting to evangelical Christianity during her time in Los Angeles. She was exposed to the tradition when living in the Philippines. 

Context: The context was that, when hearing that a family friend’s father died, the informant was reminded of her own father’s passing and brought it up.


EM: “When someone died, just like my father, and every places that we go, the vigil happens inside, in house, not like here, that they, they don’t bring the dead in the house”

Me: “You mentioned something about a vigil, what’s a vigil?”

“Vigil. Let’s say in, here [America], when someone died they don’t bring it [the body] home, they take it to the mortuary right?”

Me: “Right, so in the Philippines they take that person into the house?”

“Into the house. And there’s a vigil there, and uh, it depends how long, some three days, some one week, um, and then after that because let’s say if they have family that is not in the Philippines, they wait for their loved ones to come back because they want before they bury them. And then the vigil is every night and a lot of people, they don’t sleep, people don’t sleep, they said that they have to be awake for like 24 hours.

Me: “Does it last more than 24 hours. Like, is it multiple days?”

“Multiple days, no one sleeps there because, you know, um, they have to be awake. That’s watching it, you know?”

Me: “Do people take turns or is, they just stay there the entire time?”

“When the family wants to sleep, someone has to be awake, just there, sitting, kind of like that. I don’t know how you call it”

Me: “But it’s like the vigil like thing that you guy do”

“It’s like, yeah, the vigil, because there are, you call it viewing right? So here there’s like one or two days viewing only on a certain time right?”

“By viewing you mean like when people like to go and see the body, like, in a mortuary, right?”

Me: Yes

“Yes, yes, yes, so in the Philippines viewing and vigil is like together so people can come 

and view, and then after that stay there and like–

Me: “And like, pray right?”

“Yeah, and pray, there’s food all day all night and to keep the people awake and like that”

Me: “What types are foods would you say are served there. Would it be like caffei–”

“COFFEE!! Caffeine! Lot’s of coffee. Caffeine, biscuits, cookies, and um”

Me: “Sugar?”

“And uh, how’d you call it? You know the black seeds, pumpkin seeds, that’s so famous? That people can eat all night. Like uh, something, you see, you know, or chips, nuts, like that”

Me: “So, just like fun foods?”

“Yeah, and then after that, offer lunch and dinner, especially dinner or lunch or any food. You know like fiesta kind of like that, oh, like to feed the people that comes in.”

Me: “But, it’s not like a party right it’s still like mourning”

“No and, the people that come gives donation, you know?”


Informant: The excitement about the tradition is clear in how her tone became excited. She clearly felt it was a very important tradition to maintain.

Mine: As discussed by the informant, the traditions right after someone has died is much different in America than in the Philippines. Typically, the person in America is brought to a mortuary and is seen at a wake, and then the funeral. In the Philippines, the death of a family member is both a family and friend gathering. Notably is having to stay awake for 24 hours a day. There are beliefs that if the resting place is not always guarded, then an evil spirit will infiltrate the body of the dead. In this way, the entire community is protecting the dead from the evil spirits. Given the high number of Catholics in the Philippines, it’s surprising they do not follow the same funeral traditions, but it may come down to differences in the folk belief. For example, a difference in the belief of the prevalence of spirits in the human world. In terms of the foods offered, they all provided the sugar in order to stay awake for the entire time. There doesn’t seem to be a deeper meaning, but it still contributes to the entire gathering by ensuring that a vital tradition of staying awake still takes place.

You Can’t Give Away a Dead Person’s Shoes

Main piece: When someone dies, after the mourning period is over and it’s appropriate to give the clothes away that can still be worn, and you can give them to whoever you want – the recipient can take everything. Not the shoes. You don’t wear a dead person’s shoes. 

Background: My informant is a seventy-nine year old Jewish woman living in Baltimore, Maryland. She describes herself as a follower of “bubbe-meises” (Yiddish), translated to “grandmother’s fables”, or a more serious version of old wive’s tales that are often accompanied by superstitions. 

Context: A previous informant was discussing a traditional Jewish practice of washing your hands after a funeral. A discussion ensued about Jewish funeral rites and traditions, and my informant mentioned this one. My informant learned that from her mother, and takes the practice incredibly seriously, though it is not a situation she personally has faced. However, she does recall her mother refusing to offer her father’s shoes to family friends after his passing. 

Analysis: My informant had no idea why this practice existed, nor is there any talmudic or religious reason connected to or behind this. It is possible that unlike shirts or pants, shoes cannot be washed, and so the person who used to inhabit them can never fully be removed from the shoes. It’s also possible that, pre-industrialization, a person only owned one pair of shoes, and therefore had a higher sentimental value/significance to the person. The shoes would also be tailor made for that individual, so it is possible that the family just couldn’t give away the person’s shoes, because they wouldn’t fit anybody else. 

Armenian Song – “Garun a”

(This conversation took place in Armenian)

Main Piece

Lyrics (Original Script):

Գարուն ա ձուն ա արել, 

Վայ լէ լէ, վայ լէ լէ, վայ լէ լէ, լէ լէ 

Իմ եարն ինձնից ա սառել, 

Ախ չորնա, վախ այ եար, 

չար մարդու լեզուն 

Վայ լէ լէ, վայ լէ լէ, վայ լէ լէ, լէ լէ 

Phonetic Script

Garun a dzyun a arel

vay le le, vay le le, vay le le le le

Eem yar-n indznits a sarrel

Akh chorna, vakh ay yar

char martu lezun

vay le le, vay le le, vay le le le le


It is spring, it has snowed

Oh le le, Oh le le, Oh le le le le.

My sweetheart, from me, is frozen

Oh, dry up, my sweetheart, 

the evil man’s tongue

Oh le le, Oh le le, Oh le le le le.

Lyrics (Translation):

It is springtime and yet it has snowed

Oh le le, Oh le le, Oh le le le le.

My sweetheart has turned cold

Oh, how I wish for the evil man’s tongue to dry

Oh le le, Oh le le, Oh le le le le.


My informant explained that when she lived in Armenia, this song was a significant part of the day of remembrance for the Armenian Genocide, which took place on April 24, 1915. She explained that it is a song to be understood by the heart and felt by the soul. The song remembers not only those who lose their lives in the Genocide of 1915, but also the Armenian Massacre of 1894, which is what the song is originally referencing. When asked where she learned this song, she told me she could not remember, and does not remember a time when she didn’t know the song. 

This song has no known author but was popularized by Father Komitas, who was an Armenian preacher and singer. This song is a very powerful aspect of Armenian culture about the Armenian Massacre of 1894, which occurred during the Spring. The lyrics emphasize the notion that during the Spring, a time that brings flourishment and growth, there was “snow.” This snow is metaphorical and represents the cold and bitter nature of the massacres during a time that is usually celebrated for bringing flowers and warm weather. Komitas’s rendition of this song became the canon.


This song is sung by various members of the community on April 24 every year. This is a recurring tradition in Armenia, but can be performed by Diasporan Armenians in other countries.

My Thoughts

Being Armenian myself, I completely understood the emotions my informant was trying to communicate. The gravity of this song is not easily communicated to one who is not Armenian. I found it interesting that, in times of mourning, the people unite to sing a song. Music has always been a big part of my life, so I understand the unity that singing this song may bring to a people. As mentioned above, Garuna is a folk song that was popularized by Komitas. With that being said, it is difficult to find an interpretation or arrangement of this song that is not in some way a cover of Komitas’s interpretation. It is difficult to trace the original version of this song, and it is just as difficult to verify how close Komitas’s version is to the actual folk song.

I encourage you to listen to the song, sung by Komitas himself, to understand the feeling the song communicates. I have cited a link to a YouTube video below.


“Komitas – Garuna (Live Voice).” YouTube, 5 Dec. 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8PK51TKepc.