Duluth Does the Day of the Dead

All Souls Night 2015 007
At the risk of having you all think I’m extremely morbid, (since I just wrote about obituaries) I am going to write about All Souls Night in Duluth, also known as the Day of the Dead. It’s a community event that, although somber, is an expression of joy and remembrance for our ancestors.

I’ve wanted to attend All Souls Night for a year or two, but it never worked out until this week. Part of the event is held indoors and part outdoors on a chilly northern November evening. After applying colorful skull makeup at home, my friends and I arrived for the indoors part in time to hear a local singer and choir perform. Then there was a ceremony to honor the dead. Most touching was when audience members called out the names of the departed. Their offerings were recognized with the ring of a bell.

Tribal belly dancers came next, honoring the dead with their sinuous and graceful movements. Then it was time to head outdoors for the Funeral March for Bad Ideas. A jazz brass band led the hundred-plus people around the block along with stilt walkers, and several huge puppets that depicted death and rebirth: fish and moose skeletons combined with a monarch caterpillar and butterfly.

We gathered in a pavilion and held a ceremony to burn pieces of paper upon which the audience had written their bad ideas from the past year. Some were funny (like “Donald Trump”) and others were more personal. My friends and I were getting cold, so we left after the spiral dance, missing the music that continued indoors.

I was impressed by the range of ages of the crowd. There were more children than I was expecting for an event that deals with death. But I suppose it is good to have the next generation learn about honoring ancestors.

I was also surprised to learn this has been going on for eight years here. Candlelight and singing amid the clutter of our lives. . . .


3 thoughts on “Duluth Does the Day of the Dead

  1. You know, I always found these events to be creepy yet fun. But after everything from 9/11 to Paris to all our American lone gunman in schools or theatres, they just don’t do it for me anymore. They did the Dances of Death as the Black Death approached in 1348 (“celebrate today for tomorrow you shall see your grave.” – someone very good with words said that very long ago, so I probably won’t get sued for forgetting and leaving out the citation). Days of the Dead remind me of this. Also a lot of Halloween decorations that have appeared in the last 15 years. Personally, as someone who was at the Towers on 9/11, that one Day of the Dead is enouugh for me.

    • This celebration was more about honoring the dead than about celebrating death. But I see your point. Sounds like you are overdosed on death and don’t want/need any more reminders. I totally get that.

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