Tag Archives: remembrance

El Día de los Muertos


S: “[T]here’s Día de los Muertos which is Day of the Dead. So for that we like have an alter in our house, which is basically just like pictures of all our dead relatives and we light candles and then we… pray to God that there like in a better place. A lot of the times we go to like the cemetery and we bring like food, their favorite food and we place it at like their grave and like tombstones and that’s you offering up the dead person’s favorite food. I forget what the reasoning is, you might want to research into that, but it’s like so they have something to remind them of their old life, comfort food? I’m not sure but you take their favorite food to their grave site.”

He later told me he celebrates it on November 2nd, but November 1st is celebrated too however that’s only for saints/angels.


S is a Mexican American born in Long Beach, California. His parents are from Mexico. S celebrated this holiday since he was little as his parents taught it to him with one of his earliest memories of Día de los Muertos was celebrating it with and for his grandmother. S’s take on Día de los Muertos is it’s about preserving history and keeping traditions alive. 

S: “I like to think about it in terms of like when someone passes there’s a chance they’re not going to be remembered by like history you know? Like so few people get remembered by like the things they contributed to the world. Even historical figures, no one really likes… they just learn about them because you have to, no one really remembers as much. And when it comes to your family, you’re the only person who’s going to remember them. In terms of history, you know, they’re just going to be washed away like they didn’t really exist, so I guess it’s up to you to keep their memory alive and just make sure like the things they did while they were alive matters to you and it means something as a way to keep them like they’re still here, you know? Cause when you die, you’re gone, but your memory lives on and I guess that’s a way to make sure their memory doesn’t also die and they still live on through that which I guess is a big part of Day of the Dead and stuff like that.”


Día de los Muertos is very much about honoring and remembering loved ones. They can be for family members, friends, idols, etc. however important ones are mostly for family members. As S explained, people celebrate this holiday to keep their loved ones alive in spirit as despite being physically gone. The concept of offering foods at graves and alters with pictures of the passed away is similar to the idea Valk explained with ghosts haunting family members and being territorial. Though the spirits of those who passed away here are tied to their graves and alter photos and are not hostile but almost guardian-like. 

Humboldt Broncos Bus Crash Remembrance Tradition


Informant NR was visiting family in Canada on the anniversary of a bus crash that killed 16 and injured 13 more, mostly players on the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey team on April 6th, 2018. The crash was widely publicized and became a major topic in Canada. In the years since, NR says that many Canadians have started wearing hockey jerseys on the day of the crash to commemorate the dead and injured that were players on the team.

Main Piece:

“Everyone in Canada on that day wears a hockey jersey. I remember, one time we were, um, spending time with family in Hamilton, and we just happened to be in town on that day, and I remember, we did some sort of like, house tour, and this like lady who was apparently normally very fancy and like, put together, she was wearing a jersey as well., and like, she was the realtor.”


Hockey is a very popular sport in Canada, and the tragedy of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash really shook the population. Though there is a trend of folk speech disrespecting or making light of tragedies that are pushed as serious topics by national media, this practice moves against that trend. This may be because the victims were largely children, and because the sport of hockey acts as a uniting force for the country. The tradition is also very accessible, as many Canadians already own hockey jerseys for their preferred teams, so many do not have to purchase any additional materials to participate in the remembrance.

This national remembrance custom stands out to me because of the rising trend of insensitive or crude humor as a response to tragedy after the rise of mass media. In Of Corpse: Death and Humor in Folklore and Popular Culture, Peter Narvaez examines this phenomenon, illustrated for example through the internet memes surrounding the September 11th terrorist attacks. One theory he concludes with is the idea that mass media, by instructing everyone to care deeply about all major events, even those that had no connection to them, spurred an opposite reaction of humor jokes at the expense of those who suffered the tragedy. What is interesting to me is that this reaction does not seem to have happened in response to this tragedy. My analysis of this is that the victims, mostly teenaged hockey players, who had no fault in the driving accident, are very much aligned with the Canadian cultural ideal. They were generally of a privileged race and gender, and played Canada’s most popular and beloved sport. This endears them to the rest of the population, since even if they didn’t know any of the victims, they probably do know a teenage boy hockey player, or someone who used to be a teenage boy hockey player. The Canadian mass media succeeded at invoking sympathy for the victims of this tragedy because they were so relatable and emblematic of the Canadian establishment.

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.


Main Piece

I know it from the Australian perspective. So ANZAC day is a day for both Australia and New Zealand, but I know Australians celebrate it this way. You take a pause in the morning–well we celebrated it then–to remember the fallen soldiers. It’s for the first World War. It’s supposed to be everyone, but it’s when they landed in Gallipoli, which I think is in Turky or somewhere in the Middle East, and a bunch of people died. It’s similar to American memorial day. It’s like the whole country stops, and it’s like you have a toast to them. We did it with orange juice. Then, the rest of the day, you celebrate. I think the morning toast is called the Dawn Service to commemorate the attack. They were slaughtered.

Background/Context: This was told to me by my father. He lived in Australia in ’84 for one year when he was 15 years old with his older brothers, who were high school and college-aged. There were no parents, and they were not used to being such a white country as Australia. My dad is Filipino, but he spent most of his childhood in Papua New Guinea.


After visiting Australia myself, I think in part this is such a big tradition because this was the first time Australia sent large numbers to fight in far away shores. They didn’t have to, which made it even more devestating. WWI was awful, and this is one of the lasting memories. Like my dad said, it reminds me of Memorial day, but it seems more emotional.

Death Ritual

Me: do you have a ritual you do when you lose someone close to you?:

“When I was seven years old during one summer my cousin who was three years older than me passed    away right around her birthday. She had a rare heart condition that no one really know about… I was with my younger cousin     who was visiting me when we both got the call and found out. Now whenever I       see a heart shaped rock I always pick it up for her.”

Me: When did you start doing that?:

“I started doing it right after it happened I think. When we went to her actual funeral we all put heart shaped rocks on her grave during her ceremony, and ever since then it’s been something I’ve always done.”


Background: Zoe is a twenty-year old girl from Aspen, Colorado and currently attending USC.

Context: Zoe told me this story at brunch discussing the pain of experiencing a family member who passes away.

Analysis: I was very touched by this story that she shared with me because losing someone important to you is a very intimate, difficult, and emotional thing to share. I have been fortunate enough to only have lost one person in my immediate family in the years I have been alive, so I could not fully understand what losing a close friend or cousin would feel like at such a young age. Everyone has a different understanding of what happens after death and what capacity we have to maintain in contact with the deceased when we are still living. I think collecting something beautiful that reminds you of a special person you lost is a really amazing way of remembering what they meant to you. Zoe has a physical manifestation of remembering her cousin, which I think is a really incredible away of believing that she is seeing a little piece of her cousin every time she comes across a heart-shaped rock in nature.