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All Saints' Day

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The All Saints' Day is the tradition, never ceases to amaze the culture and folklore that characterize Peru, since every November there is a peculiar celebration in honor of the Living and the Dead.

This is a very important date for all Peruvians, because of its familiar, religious and spiritual character, a day of connection with loved ones who are no longer with us, being a special moment to remember and honor them.

Although originally the celebration was to honor and worship saints, once the colonizers arrived in Peru, this tradition acquires a syncretism, joining the Andean traditions of worshiping relatives who are no longer with us, thus creating this cultural mix that even today thousands of Peruvians still celebrate annually.

What is the origin and history of the feast of All Saints?

The feast of All Saints has its origin in the Catholic world, when Pope Gregory III in the eighth century AD establishes the first of November as a day of worship to all Saints and Saints who do not have a fixed day on the calendar of worship, the rest of the year, on the other hand, the Benedictine monk establishes on November 2, the commemoration and prayer for the faithful departed, a fact that would finally be accepted in the sixteenth century AD.

On the other hand, in our country we had the celebration of ''Aya markay killa'', which by its translation from the Quechua language, is understood, ''The month of the embrace to the deceased'', In the chronicles of Huaman Poma de Ayala we find that during the month of November the dead (mallkis) were worshipped, they were dressed with the best costumes, adorned with feathers, taking them out on platforms and walking through the streets, while they were offered dances, songs and food and drink.

Thus, at the time of colonization many traditions such as these have gone through a long process of adaptation, resulting in an admirable syncretism, and although it is true that the Mallquis (mummies) are no longer taken out in procession, the custom of honoring loved ones who died, still endure in time.

All Saints' Day
Cemetery in Todos Los Santos - Lima

When is the day of the living and the dead celebrated in Peru?

As we mentioned before, this tradition of celebrating the dead was done even in times before the conquest, of that celebration we do not have an exact date, but we do know that at the time of the Spanish conquest, both traditions were merged, so since then in Peru and the vast majority of countries this celebration takes place on 01 and 02 November. Each country by its own historical context has added different and new cultural traditions, making each one a unique celebration. The countries that stand out the most in the celebration of All Saints' Day are Mexico, Colombia, Spain, Bolivia and Peru.

How is All Saints' Day celebrated in Peru?

The celebration is on November 1st and 2nd, when people go to the nearest churches and temples to listen to mass, and then go to the cemeteries and pantheons where their loved ones are resting.

Tradition of the Day of the Saints and the Living in Peru

During the day of the Saints (November 1st), Peruvian families go to hear mass in the morning, then the altar for the deceased is assembled in the house of the relatives, in a room previously prepared, where there is only the altar and some chairs for the guests.

On the altar are placed flowers, candles, fruits, sweets, all kinds of drinks, and photographs of loved ones to honor, especially in the altars can not miss the Tanta Wawa, a sweet bread in the shape of a baby, which is the symbolic representation of a rebirth, currently this bread can be found in different designs and sizes. However, it is important to note that this bread is only available for sale during the first days of November.

As for the food, this is specially prepared for the offering, it is half-cooked meat and without salt, since salt is considered an amulet that drives away the spirits, as well as the chicha (corn drink) must be bitter.

During this day it is customary to visit the homes of neighbors, friends and relatives to say a prayer at each of the altars. At night the room where the altar for the deceased is located should be left open, with the candles lit and the food dishes full, since according to tradition the souls of the relatives will return home to visit the living and taste the offerings.

Day of the Dead Tradition in Peru

During November 2nd, a visit is made to the cemeteries and pantheons, an altar is set up above or in front of the grave of the relative being visited, where the offerings are placed, which consist of drinks, favorite dishes in life of the loved one being visited, decorated with wreaths and flower arrangements, and music is played.

This day, unlike November 1st, becomes a celebration remembering the person who departed, amid music and dance, where everyone celebrates for the person who departed, being a representation that in the deep thought of the Peruvian population, death is not the end, if not the passage to another life, and that there is still hope that at some point everyone will be reunited.

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