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Death Holidays and Why They Are Celebrated




October 29, 2021 — Autumn is the season of preparation. It is a time for harvesting before scarcity, gathering seeds and crispness before freezing, and vibrant color before grey monotony. It’s no surprise that many cultures celebrate autumn by remembering those who have gone before them, and celebrating abundant life. These holidays are a study of contrasts in different parts of the world.
Halloween, a U.S. tradition, is one of the most popular. It is a carnival atmosphere where “revelry and chaos and possibly scary things can just run amok,” says Sojin, PhD, curator at Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. The day (or night), is about letting go of inhibitions and having fun with the frightening. Halloween is a celebration of mortality, with images of skeletons or murderous dolls. But the main focus is on costumes, decorations, and candy. Absent is a sober reminder of the end of life.
Erica Buist, author Of This Party’s Dead, says that American Halloween is a perfect example of what American culture does in the death of people.
She says that Samhain, Halloween — was a Celtic death festival. The Americans have taken it and made it scary. “It’s a way to engage with it, without any actual engagement.”
Catholic All Souls Day, a religious holiday, allows for a more open-minded recognition of mortality by visiting the graves of loved ones. These opportunities are rare in the secular U.S. society. This may be because death is frightening in American culture. Kim says that death is gross.
Halloween is a way to push back, to make death flamboyant and even darkly funny.
Dimitris Zygalatas, PhD is an anthropologist at the University of Connecticut. “Death is not just terrifying, but it is also very abstract because we cannot imagine how it would be like to not exist,” he said.
Kim says that in non-U.S. cultures death is more commonly acknowledged as something people deal with every day.

The Day of the Dead is a Latin holiday that occurs just after Halloween. It descends from South American indigenous celebrations. Legend has it that on this day, ancestral relatives come back to life to eat, drink, and dance with them. The living, in turn, treat the dead like honored guests and leave them favorite foods and gifts, such as sugar skulls, on gravesites or shrines.
Kim says it is a day to celebrate, “not being afraid of death, but seeing that death is part of life.”
Similar festivities are held on the Sicilian Day of the Dead. Families bring flowers to brighten gravesites. Parents hide “gifts of the dead” for their children in the morning to strengthen the bond between generations. Marzipan fruits and bones-shaped cookies brighten shops. Buist says that these practices teach children that you can talk about people and they are okay to mention them.
There’s also the Obon Japanese Buddhist celebration, which is usually held in August and focuses on ancestors. Obon is a time when people clean gravesites and share a meal. But the most significant public expression takes place at the temples. People float or hang lanterns that bear the names of those who have passed away, and then the community gets together to dance. The sound of live drums and music is a common accompaniment. “The idea is that you dance without ego. You don’t care about your appearance. Kim says that you are dancing to remember your ancestors and this moment.
Similar celebrations are held in China and Nepal, Thailand, Madagascar. Death holidays are as human as language. Kim says that their importance is centered on the idea of “continuum versus end”.
Buist says death holidays emphasize this cyclical view and encourage a continuing relationship with the deceased. Buist says, “Have any of you heard the expression, “Grief is love without a place to go?” She asks. “It’s this saying that we use here, and it makes me feel like they’ve been everywhere else. I’d give it somewhere to go.” She notes that many of these holidays have a common theme across cultures.

Death holidays allow love to have a place to go and give it a time and a place to do so.
Kim says that having these things punctuate our calendar means we have this time and space. Kim also notes that they allow us to deal with death in a communal space. These practices allow us to grieve, remember our loved ones, and face our mortality together.
Xygalatas states that the ritual of death holidays “makes the prospect for our own death a little less frightening.”

WebMD Health News


Sojin Kim, PhD is the curator at Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in Washington, DC.
Erica Buist, freelance writer, author of This Party’s Dead London.
ElsalvadorINFO: All Souls Day El Salvador. Remembering the People Who Have Passed Away

Kid World Citizen: All Saints Day in Poland

Louisiana Life Magazine: This Time of Year Is A Grave Anffair.
Dimitris Xygalatas PhD, professor, Department of Anthropology, Department of Psychological Sciences University of Connecticut
MexicanSugarSkull: History of Day of the DeadDia de los Muertos
The Spruce Eats: The Story of Dia de los Muertos Sugar Skulls. Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos).
Anthropological Perspectives on Death: Dia de los Muertos – Celebrating the Dead
Palermo Street Food – The Sicilian Day of the Dead.
Sicilian Secrets: Day of Death: Once upon a Time in Sicily on November 2.
Cake: How These 10 Countries Celebrate Dia de los Muertos.
Waterstones: This Party’s dead: Grief, Joy, and Spilled Rum at World’s Death Festivals (Hardback).

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New GR Pharmacy to Serve Spanish-speaking Patients




GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — By the end of the year, Grand Rapids’ Roosevelt Park neighborhood will have a new pharmacy.

Trinity Health Clinica Santa Maria began construction Monday morning on the $1.5 million project. The new pharmacy will include both walk-up and drive-thru services.

Trinity Health Clinica Santa Maria practice leader Kameron Selleck it will offer convenience in a neighborhood that doesn’t have a pharmacy close in proximity, making it challenging for patients to get their prescriptions in a timely manner.

“A lot of our patients do encounter a lot of social barriers in their lives,” Selleck said.

He added that a language barrier can make it difficult patients to get their prescriptions. He said nearly every employee at Clinica Santa Maria is bilingual in Spanish and the plan is for that trend to carry over to new pharmacy and pharmacy tech hires.

“I think this project was announced almost five years ago, so it’s here,” Selleck said. “I just really encourage the community to be as excited as we are.

The pharmacy is at 730 Cesar E. Chavez Ave. SW (formerly Grandville Avenue) at Martin Luther King Jr. Street (formerly Franklin Street) in Grand Rapids. It will be the seventh Trinity Health pharmacy in the Grand Rapids area, with the other locations being Cathedral Square, the Wege Building at Trinity Heath Saint Mary’s, Hudsonville, Rockford, Byron Center and Southeast Grand Rapids.

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Tulip Time Crowds Encouraging for Returning Festivals




HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Tulip Time saw big crowds this year as it returned to a more regular schedule.

The event was cancelled in 2020 and scaled back last year because of the pandemic.

Hot temperatures caused damage to some of Holland’s tulips, Tulip Time organizers say.

The heat caused challenges for the 2022 festival. The Tulip Immersion Garden, a new attraction, had to close early because the hot temperatures caused too much damage to the flowers, Tulip Time Executive Director Gwen Auwerda said.

“They don’t like 80 degree, 90 degree weather. Tulips prefer it to be about 40 at night, 60 to 70, maybe 80 during the day,” Auwerda said.

Heat closes down Tulip Time Immersion Garden early

The organization is working on final numbers but saw attendance return to pre-pandemic levels.

“I do know that the carnival exceeded 2019 by 25 to 30%, so that was fabulous for them and it was packed everywhere in town,” Auwerda said.

Kevin Knight, the owner of Market Zero, said the festival definitely provided a boost as they worked to keep up with demand. 

“It’s a huge kick off to your summer season,” Knight said. “Our fridges were completely full and got completely empty and completely full and completely empty, so it was about everything we could handle.”

Market Zero in downtown Holland on May 16, 2022. Inside Market Zero in downtown Holland on May 16, 2022.

The return of crowds could be good sign for other events coming back this summer, like the Festival of the Arts in Grand Rapids. Mark Azkoul, an organizer for the event that began in 1970, sees the success of Tulip Time as encouraging.

Tulip Time has record-breaking opening weekend

“We’ve been out for two years so this is a big thing for us and for the city to get Festival back up and going,” Azkoul said.

Organizers created the Plein Air event for 2021, which combined outdoor art and music.

The 2022 event runs June 3 through June 5. After taking a break because of the pandemic the festival needs extra help.    

“A lot of people still don’t know yet festival is coming back, so we really want to get the word out. We need more volunteers,” Azkoul said.

People interested in volunteering can sign up on the Festival of the Arts website.


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Mom Does ‘small Part’ to Help Parents Who Need Formula




HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Though there appears to an end of the baby formula shortage in sight, it’s still causing problems for parents, so a mother in Holland did what she could to help.

Abbott Nutrition has announced its entered into an agreement with the federal Food and Drug Administration to restart its Sturgis plant within two weeks. The closure of that plant has been a huge contributing factor to the shortage. The company expects its products to ship to stores eight weeks after production resumes.

But for now, many parents can’t find the formula they need. The low supply has some stores limiting the number of formulas customers can purchase, adding that they are in “extraordinary high” demand.

The baby formula shelves at a Meijer in Holland.

So Caitlin Dampier, a mother of two whose youngest is a 3-month-old girl, stepped up to help where she could.

“I really wish I could help out more, but this is just my small part,” Dampier said.

She got a box of Enfamil formulas that she’s not using because she’s breastfeeding.

“When you’re pregnant, you get free samples and so I thought I would just offer mine for free for mothers who need them,” Dampier said. “I kept it around in case I wasn’t able to breastfeed.”

5 things to know if you can’t find baby formula

Dampier made a post on Facebook this week directed at parents who can’t find formula. The box she received included three cans of Enfamil formulas and two ready-made formulas.

Two mothers reached out to her, including Kourtney Hann, another Holland resident. She’s one of thousands of mothers across the country who have had to go to great lengths to find food for their baby.

“I have had to go to stores maybe 45 minutes away just to even try to get formula,” she said. “It’s very hard to find them where I’m at right now. I went to Walmart yesterday and all they had was Similac and my daughter has a really bad reaction to Similac.”

Hann was able to connect with Dampier and picked up a can of Enfamil. Dampier left the box on her front porch with the message, “Please take only the formula you chose and tear out some coupons for yourself. My prayers are with you during this difficult time.”

The box of Enfamil products Caitlin Dampier left at her door for mothers to pick up.

Hann said she was down to her last can of baby formula which lasts her about five days. Now that she has received another can from Dampier, she’ll be able to feed her 9-month-old for the next two weeks.

“Being a mom is hard enough as it is. You have so many other struggles and to be afraid to know if you’re going to be able to feed your baby or not is a struggle,” Dampier said. “You want to do everything for your kids so when you’re not able to it’s hard. It’s just the worst feeling in the world.”


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