With the Halloween season approaching I want to expand our horizons and look for the similarities and differences in the ways Death is celebrated around the World. Every Culture has their own vision of death, and of what happens with us after we are not here anymore. Humankind seems to be forever fascinated with the matter of the inevitable- trying to embrace it, celebrated it, explain and understand it.
The mystery of the Other Side, the communion with the spirits and gods is one of my favorite topics. Close your eyes for me for a second- when you picture darkness, what are you thinking about? When I did it, my answer was- peace, rest, comfort... In a recent TikTok trend person who asked us to answer that question, explained that this description of darkness is your vision of death, interesting isn’t it? Tell me in the comments, what was your description of darkness?
Obon, also known as The Japanese Day of the Dead was traditionally celebrated during the seventh lunar month, around the 15th day of the month. Today in most cities it’s celebrated on August 15th (Tokoya is an exception, there it’s celebrated on July 15th)
It’s a traditional Buddhist festival, celebrating the lost Ancestors whose spirits are said to visit their relatives on this day. Because of that many people return to their hometowns and try to spend the festival with their family and friends. Kyoto residents celebrate the ending of the Obon by lighting big bonfires in the hills of the city- a beacon in the darkness to guide the spirits of their loved ones back home.
In the temples and at local parks you can catch a glimpse of the bonodori- a traditional dance, meant to welcome the spirits of the dead back to the world of the living. In Ichinomiya City, Japanese Buddhists place one thousand floating paper lanterns on a river sending them straight to the ocean- it's another way of paying honor to the deceased ones- they are called toro nagashi and it’s truly my dream to see that at least once in this lifetime.
Buddhists believe death is a natural part of the life cycle. They believe that death simply leads to rebirth. This belief in reincarnation – that a person's spirit remains close by and seeks out a new body and new life – is a comforting and important principle, don’t you think?