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Ancestor Worship Festivals around the World

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Ancestor Worship Festivals around the World

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Veneration of the dead or ancestor reverence is based on the belief that the dead have a continued existence and/or possess the ability to influence the fortune of the living. The social or non-religious function of ancestor veneration is to cultivate kinship values, such as filial piety, family loyalty, and continuity of the family lineage. While far from universal, ancestor veneration occurs in societies with every degree of social, political, and technological complexity, and it remains an important component of various religious practices in modern times.



Five coloured papers" placed on the mound of a grave Qingming

Qingming Festival is a traditional Chinese festival on the 104th day after the winter solstice and is an opportunity for celebrants to remember and honour their ancestors at grave sites. Young and old pray before the ancestors, sweep the tombs and offer food, tea, wine, chopsticks, joss paper accessories, and/or libations to the ancestors. In Taiwan this national holiday is observed on April 5 because the ruling Kuomintang moved it to that date in commemoration of the death of Chiang Kai-shek on April 5.


Bon Festival in Shizuoka

Bon Festival is a Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the spirits of one's ancestors. This Buddhist-Confucian custom has evolved into a family reunion holiday during which people return to ancestral family places and visit and clean their ancestors' graves, and when the spirits of ancestors are supposed to revisit the household altars. It has been celebrated in Japan for more than 500 years and traditionally includes a dance, known as Bon-Odori.


Ancestral slabs for Jesa

Jesa is a ceremony commonly practiced in Korea. Jesa are usually held on the anniversary of the ancestor's death. Gijesa is a memorial service which is held on the day of the ancestor's death every year. Gijesa is performed until upwards of five generations of ancestors in the eldest descendant's house. Memorial services that are performed on Chuseok or New Year's Day are called "charye," On April 5th and before Chuseok, Koreans visit the tombs of their ancestors and trim the grass off the tombs. Then, they offer food, fruits, and wine, and finally make bows in front of the tombs. Memorial services that are performed in front of tombs are called "seongmyo"


Pitru Paksha at Banganga Tank

Pitru Paksha is a 16–lunar day period when Hindus pay homage to their ancestors (Pitrs), especially through food offerings. In southern and western India, it falls in the Hindu lunar month of Bhadrapada (September–October), beginning with the full moon day (Purnima) that occurs immediately after the Ganesh festival and ending with the new moon day known as Sarvapitri amavasya, Mahalaya amavasya or simply Mahalaya.


Faun Phii This ceremony is known as faun phii (literally meaning Spirit Dance) and the Trance dances usually occur as a result of a vow or contract (kae bon) made between a cult group member and their ancestral spirits (phii puu yaa). The dances attract large numbers of spectators from clan members and local villagers. The first day of the ceremony is called Day of Preparation (wan daa). On this day, the preparation of offerings and the construction of the special trance dance pavilion (param) takes place.


All Saint's Day

All Saints' Day In many countries with a Roman Catholic heritage All Saints Day and All Souls Day have long been holidays in which people take the day off work, go to cemeteries with candles and flowers, and give presents to children, usually sweets and toys. In Portugal and Spain ofrendas ("offerings") are made on this day. In Spain the play Don Juan Tenorio is traditionally performed. In Spain, Portugal, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Ireland, people bring flowers to the graves of dead relatives and say prayers over the dead. In Poland, Slovakia,Hungary, Lithuania, Croatia , Slovenia, Romania, Austria, Germany, Sweden Norway and Finland, the tradition is to light candles and visit the graves of deceased relatives.


Allantide is a Cornish festival that was traditionally celebrated on 31st October and known elsewhere as Hallowe'en. The festival itself seems to have pre-Christian origins similar to most celebrations on this date, however in Cornwall it was popularly linked to St Allen or Arlan a little-known Cornish Saint. Because of this Allantide is also known as Allan day. The origins of the name Allantide are actually likely to stem from the same old English sources as Hollantide (Wales and the Isle of Man) and Hallowe'en itself.

Ireland , Scotland[edit]

Soul cakes for Samhain

Samhain is a Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter or the "darker half" of the year. It is celebrated from sunset October 31st - sunset November 1st.It was the time when cattle were brought back down from the summer pastures and when livestock were slaughtered for the winter. In much of the Gaelic world, bonfires were lit and there were rituals involving them, as at Beltane. Samhain (like Beltane) was seen as a time when the doorways to the Otherworld opened enough for the souls of the dead, and other beings, to come into our world. Feasts were had, at which the souls of dead kin were beckoned to attend and a place set at the table for them.

North America[edit]


Dia De Muertos

Day of the Dead ( Día de Muertos)- it's a big holiday throughout Mexico when friends and families gather together to remember their ancestors. It is celebrated between 31 Oct and 3 Nov.