November 2, 2011

All Saints Day

In Guatemala and many other countries, November 1 is All Saints Day. For that reason, we had off from school on Tuesday. Like most holidays, people celebrate at different degrees, but a few traditions are commonly followed. The first tradition is the eating of “fiambre,” which is only eaten on All Saints Day. Basically, fiambre is a meat salad. There are two different kinds of fiambre, either red or white. Red fiambre is made with beets, which is how the red fiambre becomes red. White fiambre is simply cooked without beets.

We were graciously invited to our Spanish teacher’s house, where we ate red fiambre. The picture below shows just how colorful and beautiful the salad looks. It was definitely not the worst thing we have eaten. The taste is good, but the texture becomes interesting after awhile.

Another common custom for All Saints Day is to go to the cemetery to visit and decorate relative’s gravesites, using many flowers and pine needles. Some of the pictures below show all the beautiful flowers used. The cemetery is huge, but it was packed with people, fresh flowers, and venders selling pizza and peanuts.

There are some interesting beliefs surrounding All Saints Day and the cemetery traditions. For example, there is one gravesite marked “Vanushka.” She is the Guatemalan version of Juliette, a woman who wasn’t allowed to marry her true love and therefore died of a broken heart. Now people write their name on her grave, believing she will help them find true love. When they do find their special someone, they are supposed to come back to the cemetery and put flowers on her grave.

Another somewhat interesting thing is that most of the angel statues in the cemetery are headless. One way that gangs initiate new members is to have them cut the heads off of the angels. The only angel in the cemetery with a head is the Angel of Death.

Some also believe that the spirits of their dead relatives come back to visit on All Saints Day. Some people will leave their relative’s favorite foods and other gifts on their gravesite, so that their spirit will not be hungry when they return.

One final tradition, a little more uplifting, is the flying of kites in the cemetery. There were a lot of kites being flown that day. Our group exploring the cemetery did our best to fly kites among the tombs and the trees. Thankfully a few Guatemalan boys were experts and helped us out.

The tomb of the last Guatemalan President. He was really into Greco-Roman Architecture.

A few wonderful friends from IAS.

It was an interesting day of experiencing more Guatemalan culture. If you have a minute to pray for us, please consider the following:

1. The final round of elections is on Sunday. Pray for a peaceful transition.
2. Our school is in need of finding a team to lead Spiritual Emphasis week next March. Pray that a group will be willing to come down and lead a vacation Bible school for elementary students and a spiritual retreat for middle and high school students.

Grace and Peace,