Today is a national holiday in Brazil. On November 2, we celebrate Dia de Finados – also known as the “Day of the Dead.”
This religion tradition dates back to medieval France. Legend has it that in 998, an abbot in the French Cluny Monastery ordered his fellow monks to pray for the dead since no one remembered them. During the 13th century, November 2 – one day after All Saints Day – became the official day to celebrate those who have passed.
The Day of the Dead is celebrated in many countries, each one with its own peculiarities. In Mexico, for instance, the holiday lasts three days from October 31 to November 2. During that time, families gather to honor the departed. Streets and houses are decorated with masks and drawings of skulls – and streets are packed. Some even say that Mexico’s celebration of the dead began some 3,000 years ago to symbolize life’s “new beginnings.”
In Brazil, the holiday is focused less on celebration and more on grief. Tradition has it that one must visit the graves of his or her beloved ones in the early hours of the day. Cemeteries can become very crowded, and florists see the date as one of the year’s most important. In some cities, flower sales go up by 40 percent just for the day.
Unlike Mexico and other countries, Brazilians see the Day of the Dead as a date for introspection and contemplation. Some even abstain from meat and alcohol as a sign of respect for those lost.
Does Brazil celebrate Halloween?
Not really. Despite several attempts to turn Halloween into a real holiday here, it’s failed to become part of our culture. You won’t find people dressed up trick or treating in any city. There are, of course, costume parties that take place in Brazil. But most of those celebrations are exclusive to middle and upper-class Brazilians – that is, those that are more drawn to American culture.