Pure dead brilliant: Scotland set to have its very own Day of the Deid
IT is one of the best know festivals in the world. The Mexican Day of the Dead has become an iconic festival of remembrance known around the planet for its vivid “skull art”. Now it seems like Scotland could be on its way to instituting its own “Day of the Deid”.
Charities and bereavement counsellors say Scotland needs to adopt a healthier attitude to loss and mortality, and a Celtic version of the Mexican Day of the Dead, full of colour, celebration, music and fun, is the way to do it.
One group calling for a new Scottish Day of the Dead are the organisers of the Absent Friends festival, which promotes events from street parties to reminiscence suppers in order to encourage people to remember and celebrate the lives of loved ones who have passed away.
Their call has been backed by those working with the bereaved who claim that it is time for Scotland to throw off its stiff upper lip attitude to death.
Suggestions include a Scottish version of the ancient Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), which sees people in many countries – most notably Mexico – mark All Souls Day by celebrating for two days from November 1. Celebrations are characterised by colourful street parties and processions with music.
Local cemeteries are be decorated with candles, lights and art works, and local streets with bunting celebrating lost loved ones.
Robert Peacock, development manager of Good Life, Good Death, Good Grief – the charity which co-ordinates the Absent Friends festival from November 1-7 – said the idea was to tap back into the Celtic traditions of All Souls Day and Halloween to create a Scottish version of the Mexican holiday, which sees family members tidying and decorating graves with marigolds, ornate sugar skulls, photos, and food and drink, as well as preparing special meals and hosting remembrance parties. “The British response to death is a stiff upper lip one,” he said. “The traditions of the Day of the Dead make it a more social thing. The festival is a time for colours and for celebration of someone’s life.
“That was present in Celtic traditions and is still more apparent in the Irish wake, but many of those traditions are gone.”
Stewart Wilson, chief executive of Cruse Bereavement Care, said: “There’s a huge tendency not to talk about people who have died. We have a discomfort with death and dying and we are often uncomfortable with other people’s distress. Yet it is a universal experience.
“We might chose to get married or have children or not but almost all of us will be bereaved at least once.”
Kate Clark of Scotland-wide organisation Pushing Up The Daisies,
By bringing people together it helps us realise death is a common experience we all share
which supports people to look after their loved ones at home between their death and their funeral, said a Scottish Day of the Dead could help make death more visible and reduce feelings of isolation experienced by those left behind.
“Because we don’t talk about death, people are having to deal with it alone,” she said.
“By bringing people together it helps us realise death is a common experience we all share. By making an annual tradition we can get in the habit of honouring our dead.”
Clark continued: “Don’t we all want to be remembered when we are gone? Celebration, rather than fear, is a great way to bring old tradition to the present day.”
Many countries, especially Mexico, celebrate All Souls Day by celebrating for two days from November 1 Photographs by Chris Jackson/Getty Images and AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd