Day Of The Dead isn’t Just A Spanish Celebration

When we think of the Day of The Dead, we think of sugar skulls and the stories that we hear about the celebrations of this festival day from Central and South America. However, The holiday isn’t just a Spanish based holiday. It is in fact a festival day that is part of the Catholic holidays and is celebrated in certain places in Europe as well. Sicily celebrates this holiday and its similarities strike a similar reflection of its celebrants across the pond. In fact, until a few years ago, the festival of the dead was the only Sicilian celebration where gifts were exchanged.

Today, the days leading up to November 2nd are filled with hundreds of Fiere dei Morti or Fairs of the Dead. The fairs are filled with all sorts of sweets like the Frutta di Martorana which is almond paste made into the shape of different fruits and is usually accompanied by pupatelli (biscuits filled with toasted almonds) and taralli, which is a ring cake covered in icing.

As a gift giving holiday as well as a celebration, there are toys of all shapes and sizes which parents can buy for the children’s Cannistru, which is a basket filled with gifts, dried fruits, and other local delicacies. These baskets are prepared the night before so that the parents can surprise their children in the morning. In the mean time, children hide the graters around the house because the dead have the habit of visiting naughty children and grating their feet while they sleep!

When the children wake up on November 2nd, it’s a day filled with excitement. The children begin a treasure hunt around the house looking for the presents their parents got for them for the Cannistru. At breakfast, a muffoleta is traditionally served. Unlike the one of our creole friends down in Louisiana, this one is usually served with olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano, anchovies, and a few slices of primosale cheese.

After everyone has been fed, and the presents have been found, the whole family will go to the cemetery, carrying flowers. Here, they will light candles, play among the graves to show appreciation for the toys received, and then enjoy a good feast. In some places, people will go to the family crypt to wash the deceased and comb their hair. Even today, there are many who still visit the crypt of the Capuchins in Palermo on this day.

Sicilians even create something reminiscent to the sugar skull and sugar skeleton figures. The Pupi ri zuccaru are sugar puppets. Traditionally, these sugar puppets were made in the forms of knights and paladins on horseback. Today, they often are done in the likeness of soccer players and dancers, however, many still make the traditional sugar puppets, showing how tradition truly runs deep among the Sicilians.

No one sheds tears on this day, for although throughout Italy and the rest of the world the dead are remembered and honored. On November 2nd in Italy, the dead are celebrated!

Dreaming At The End: The Significance of End of Life Dreams

As a well spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well spent brings happy death.
– Leonardo Da Vinci

For many of us, death is an inescapable fear that sits at the back of the mind, always present. Now, it might not be on your mind, but it lets itself be known now and again, it’s there when you stop yourself from doing something, and it’s there when those we love pass or are close to passing. However, as we near the end of our journey, something amazing happens. That fear that is part of our everyday life simply goes away. For many of us, the phenomenon of end of life dreams or visions will occur. Experts have said that about 50-60% of people who are dying experience these dreams or visions that help comfort them and remove the fear of dying. So what exactly are these dreams and what does science have to say about them?

What are End of Life Dreams?

Before we can dive into what scientists and doctors have to say about these dreams, let’s dissect what they actually are. People who are near the end have reported experiencing remarkably vivid, yet insightful visions and dreams that bring the person great personal comfort to them in point of time, that for all accounts and purposes, should be terrifying. However, these dreams/visions aren’t considered near death experiences due to the fact that they don’t “come back to life.” Instead, they’ve completed the natural cycle of life and pass into what scientists and physicians call the clinical, or biological state of death, where the nervous and respiratory systems begin to shut down. Additionally, hospice patients that have been observed for studies into end of life dreaming have reported several different styles of dreams, in intensity and how they were experienced. However, many have very similar themes and usually involve: The comforting presence of a previously deceased loved one, or preparing to leave on a journey with a living or dead relative, engaging with or simply watching deceased relatives and friends. Realizing that they hadn’t simply disappeared, and seemed happy and content.

What Do The Scientists Say?

Research done by different organizations such as The American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Care as well as Hospice Buffalo and Daemen College have come across some very interesting findings. According to the study, patients in the study found these dreams gave them great personal comfort and peace, helping them dissuade their fear of dying and help them with accepting that the end is near. The study also suggested that these dreams should not be dismissed but recognize them as a positive part of the dying process. The study by Hospice Buffalo and Daemen College, was one of the first to ask for descriptions and document the timing of the dreams. The patients reported that the dreams were immensely more vivid and memorable than normal dreaming during REM sleep, and were sometimes so intense that they continued into waking and would be active in more than just visions. One patient described a dream that he was a boy again and could smell his mother’s perfume, and hear her voice. Additionally, the patient described a dream about his father giving him valuable life lessons and feeling his approval of the patient.

Overall, patients who experience these end of life dreams lose their fear of death and gain insights into their own mortality, and help accept that they are passing. The experience of dying is transformed from a scary and puzzling event, into one wrapped in comfort and complete acceptance.

Ashes to Ashes: The Origins of Cremation and Cremation Urns

For as long as cremation has existed, it has been a hot button issue among people and beliefs. While some cultures and religions support cremation, some find it macabre, and even more find it downright disgusting and say it is an improper way to dispose of a body. Whether you support cremation or not, it stands as one of the longest running processes, and memorial traditions, in the history of our species.

Cremation From The Beginning

Cremation has been around for a very, very long time. Scholars today generally agree that cremation began during the early Stone Age ~3000 B.C. in Europe and The Near East. Near the end of the Stone Age, cremation practices began to spread to northern Europe, as can be seen from historical finds of decorative pottery in the Slavic regions of Russia. With the onset of the Bronze Age, cremation began to move into the British Isles and Ireland and into what is now known as Spain and Portugal. Cemeteries for cremation develop in Hungary and northern Italy and also spread to northern Europe.

Cremation In The Classical Eras

By the time of the Greeks, cremation had become an integral and elaborate part of the Grecian burial customs. It even became the dominant method of disposition by the time of Homer in 800 B.C. and was actually encouraged for health reasons and was an expedient burial method for soldiers slain in war. Cremation was seen by many classic cultures as a very hygienic disposal of human remains, especially after plagues ravaged many of the early cities.

Following the Grecian trend, historians note that the early Romans began using cremation as part of their funeral rites around 600 B.C. and became so prevalent that the Roman Senate had to put a ban against the cremation of bodies within the city during this time. By the time of the Roman Empire, cremation became widely practiced, and cremains were placed in elaborate urns and often stored in niches in columbarium style buildings. Even though the practice was popular and part of Roman society, cremation was rare with the early Christians who considered it pagan along with Jewish culture where traditional burial is preferred.

By 400 A.D., as a result of the Christianization of the Roman Empire, earth burial had completely replaced cremation except for rare instances such as plague and war, and for the next 1,500 years this would be the accepted mode of burial throughout Europe.

Modern Cremation

Modern cremation, as we know it today, began in the 19th century. The modern cremation movement started almost simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic after Professor Brunetti of Italy perfected and displayed his cremation chamber model at the Vienna Exposition in 1873. At the same time, Queen Victoria’s surgeon, Sir Henry Thompson, fostered the use of cremation in the British Isles. Hazardous health conditions prompted Sir Henry and his colleagues to promote cremation and found the Cremation Society of England in 1874. By 1878, England and Germany were home to the first European crematories in Europe.

In North America, cremation was being experimented with in the early 1800s. It began to become more common practice in 1876, when Dr. Julius LeMoyne built the first crematory in Washington, Pennsylvania.

Today, the popularity of cremation is continuing to rise,not only has it become an acceptable form of disposition, but also less expensive than traditional ground burials, and the popularity of cremation is only matched by the constantly evolving styles of cremains vessels. In fact, there are so many urn types, that they are often classified by the style and functionality, rather than materials.

Many religions that were previously against cremation have accepted it as a tradition. Cremation can offer the same options for families that traditional burials do, such as viewing of a body or even burial in a ground plot in a cemetery. Whatever the reason, cremation gives us an alternative for the farewell of our dearly departed in a dignified and time honored way.

Alternative Memorials: Scattering at Sea

We all know the pain of losing a loved one. When they pass, their memory lives with us, but we still want to celebrate the person and honor their memory. There are many options to choose from when deciding how best to celebrate your loved one’s memory. One such option that people sometimes choose is to scatter the ashes at sea.

Numerous boat captains perform these services, and they are as unique as the individual who the ceremony is honoring. Services for sea scatterings can vary immensely, some include clergy-led prayer or can even be as simple as mourners recalling favorite memories of the person who has passed.

For those thinking of doing a scattering at sea, there are a few things that you must think of logistically to make sure that the ceremony goes smoothly. Firstly, usually you cannot simply dump the ashes, even though most is a sand like substance, the finer particles will blow back on to the boat and can cling to the boat or get on the passengers. A simple container that is biodegradable or water soluble should be used. Memorial Gallery carries several different lines of scattering urns, and even more specifically, carries those meant for scattering at sea. Additionally, most scattering services allow you to scatter flowers or petals, meant as a sign of love for the departed along with the ashes. Finally, with scattering at sea, you are going to have to find out what the occupational limit is for the boat. While scattering at sea is a beautiful and touching memorial, it does not allow for many people to bear witness for the funeral. However, if you’re looking for something more intimate and private, a scattering at sea is the perfect answer for those needs.

Death is one of life’s most difficult realities. We all have lost loved ones, so we know that it’s a very painful and emotional experience. During this time, empathy and patience is tantamount. At Memorial Gallery, it is our honor and privilege to assist you and your family during this difficult time. Your complete satisfaction is our goal. If you’re curious about our products or would like us to help you can always reach us at our website or by calling us at 1-877-996-URNS.

8 Beautiful Ways to Memorialize a Loved One

It is always hard to say goodbye to a loved one, when they’ve been with you for so long, it’s hard to think of life without them. Everything you see or do, you see them in it. Everyone always says that the hardest part of grief is letting the person go. However, even though their physical presence may be gone, there are different ways in which you can honor their memory, here are some options you can consider.

Tree Memorials

With the rise in popularity of cremations, greenĀ  memorial options are becoming more widely available. One such style are biodegradable urns that are also starter planters for a tree. Most of these come with different tree seeds in them so you can pick and choose which one you feel would best memorialize your loved one.

Blooming Memorials

Like the tree memorials talked about above, there are also options such as seed embedded memorials that contain perennial seeds. This living tribute can be a favorite flower that the person enjoyed, and can be passed out to friends and family so they all have the ability to create a personal memorial for the deceased.

Memorial Web Site

Additionally, if you wanted to build something online, you can create a memorial website for the deceased. This could be used as a repository for photos as well as favorite memories of the person. There are many different internet providers that have free space for websites.

Memorial Jewelry

As we’ve written about in the past, memorial jewelry is becoming a very popular memorial option for the surviving family members. This can range from fingerprint and photo jewelry or can even be gem jewelry that is made from the cremation ashes. Additionally, many companies will also create custom jewelry that with your input can create the best memorial for your loved one.

Volunteer

A good way to remember someone can also be to help others. Volunteering to be a grief counselor, or setting up a charity or fund in their name for a cause they supported can sometimes be the best way to memorialize something by helping contribute to something they loved.

A Memorial Bench

Whether it is in your local park, or just in your backyard, making a memorial bench for your loved one can give you the support and rest you need during your time of grief. If you would like to create a memorial bench in your local park, you should find out if your local municipality has a program to do that.

Memorial Album

Like the website, you can ask family and friends to donate pictures or stories to create a memorial album of your loved one. This will help create a physical memorial that can be looked through to remember them.

Garden Tribute

If you feel up to it, creating a memorial garden is another alternative for memorializing your loved one. You can create a flower garden to which all forms of life can come and feed off the flowers or stay as a safe haven and just place a plaque saying whatever it is you want to say to memorialize your loved one.

Losing a loved one is never easy to come to terms with. However, by memorializing their life and love it can help you be proactive and honor the person you lost and help you on your own path while you work through your grief.

 

Celebrations of the Dead Around the World

While the passing of a loved one can be a somber affair, we also look to celebrate their memory and life while we grieve their passing. This is done in different ways around the world. However, no matter the culture we all look at celebrating the life along with paying our respects to those we have lost. Here is our look at some of these celebrations from around the world.

Halloween and the Saints

All-Hallows Eve, popularly known as Halloween, didn’t start off as a night to dress up, get candy, and have a good time while dressed as someone else. It’s origins date back to the ancient Celts celebration of Samhain. This celebration was done to celebrate the end of the harvest and was seen as when the boundary between our world and the world of the spirits became mutable, allowing spirits to cross over to our world. The wearing of costumes, holding parades, bonfires, and pranking is as ancient as the origins of this holiday. Interestingly enough, the wearing of costumes was originally to fool the spirits that crossed over into thinking that you were a ghost as well so you weren’t accosted by them. After the spread of Christianity, the Catholic Church absorbed the holiday of Samhain into it’s celebration of All-Saints day which was also known as All-Hallows, which the evening before was called All-Hallows Eve.

Which leads us to our next holiday of All-Saints Day and All-Souls Day. These holidays are some of the oldest holy days of the Catholic Church. All-Saints day was to pay respect and prayers for the souls of unknown saints and martyrs who gave their lives for the grace of god and the church. All-Souls Day is even more somber, as it is to pray for the souls trapped in purgatory, so their souls are cleansed of their earthly sins and they can ascend to heaven.

Obon, The Lantern Festival

Next, we have Obon, which is the Japanese Lantern Festival. This Buddhist tradition has been celebrated in Japan for over 500 years and is held every August for three days. During this time, it is believed that spirits pass over into our world, however, unlike Halloween, which sees the spirits as violent and mean us harm, the spirits that cross over during Obon are here to visit their relatives. Many Buddhists in Japan celebrate this holiday by preparing special food and drink for their ancestors’ spirits. These special offerings are placed at temples and shrines to honor the dead. When night comes, families light paper lanterns and hang them in front of their home to guide the spirits to their home. At the close of the festival, people light colored paper lanterns and send them down the rivers and bays of Japan out to sea. This is to help guide the spirits back to the afterlife until the next festival.

Los Dios de los Muertos (The Days of the Dead)

The Mexican cousin to All-Saints day and All-Souls Day, Los Dios de los Muertos is also celebrated on the first two days of November. Like Halloween, this holiday is also a blending of ancient cultures with Christianity and actually dates back to the Aztecs and Mayans. The Aztecs and Mayans festival of the dead was not a day or week long holiday, but actually went on for two months. During this two month period, the fall harvest and death were celebrated and honored. During this time, offerings in the form of food, alcohol, flowers, and ceramics were prepared for the deceased. The Aztecs and Mayans both believed that at the culmination of the festival, the dead passed back over to the land of the living to visit their families and loved ones they left behind. When the Spanish Conquistadors invaded and brought with them Catholicism, they tried to bring this festival under the auspices of All-Saints day and All-Souls day, which today are celebrated in Mexico as Los Dios de los Muertos.

During these two days, living relatives invite the recently deceased back to their family home to visit those who they’ve left behind. Family members will leave photographs of loved ones lost at their grave site or at a family altar along with food, drink, and flowers. This festival is especially important for those who have passed recently as it is a way to help with the grieving process. Additionally, the preparation of the family altar is an extremely important part of this ritual. The altar is usually adorned with flowers to symbolize the shortness of all life, along with sweets, fruits, and other foods. Additionally, the well known Calaveras also take their place on the shrine, these skeletons are depicted in different life poses, from cooking to playing in a mariachi band and are meant to be a reminder to celebrate the life the person lived and to bring a smile to the aggrieved.

Wherever you are from, everyone around the world celebrates the memories of the loved ones who have passed. It helps us grieve and helps us remember those of us who are with us in memory and spirit.

Rise of Cremation Rates Creates New Memorial Options

I’ve heard many different reasons why cremation rates are on the rise. From shifting demographics to the increasing transient nature of our society. However, looking for the root cause has not lead to a solution, what needs to change is the perception of why this shift is happening. Families are not looking for the cheapest or most extravagant option but are looking for the option that will give them the most value from their own perspective. The challenge for the memorial industry comes from the consumer not knowing what they want or need when it comes to memorial options, which, in turn, makes them focus on price.

A Shift to Cremation

Up until 1965, cremation had stayed steady at a rate of about 4% per year. Since then, the rate of cremation has since skyrocketed to around 40% per year, and is predicted to reach nearly 60% by 2025. Numerous factors have contributed to this rise in cremation, most notably are the increased economic restraints on most families. With funeral costs rising higher and higher, people are looking for an alternative that allows them to celebrate their loved one’s life and honor their memory.

New Memorial Options

Angel Wing Cremation Jewelry Pendant

With this shift towards more cremations, the options to personalize how you are memorialized has grown with it. While the standard cremation urn or vase used to showcase on a shelf is still available, other options have begun to appear as well. People have used the ashes to create cremation jewelry such as necklaces or rings, by having the ashes pressed into crystal or gems. They have also spawned more green alternatives in the form of biodegradable urns or being used as part of the soil in a tree planting. People have also had their loved one’s fingerprints etched into sterling silver or gold pendants that can be worn. However, those still looking for burial can do it

With the rise of cremation, it has given people more options to choose from in how they wish to be memorialized. This personal touch allows those looking for alternative ways of being remembered and won’t have to break the bank to do it. Additionally, this will allow them to choose something important to them and will have a lasting impact and stronger memory for the one’s they left behind.

Near Death Experiences: How they Affect You and Your Loved Ones

While passing on is part of the great mystery of life, Near-Death Experiences (NDE) can have just as profound an effect on the person as passing can on the loved ones left behind. Studies have shown that around 15% of the US’s population has experienced an NDE. Those who have had an NDE come back different, and have explained that they’ve changed in one way or another. Here are a few ways how a near-death experience can affect someone.

What is a Near-Death Experience?

First off, before we dive into the effects of a near-death experience, we must understand what it is. A near-death experience, according to IANDS, is a distinct, subjective experience that people sometimes report after a very close brush with death, otherwise known as a near-death episode. During one of these episodes, the person is either clinically dead, near death, or in a situation where death is likely or expected. This usually stems from serious illness or injury, such as from a car accident. However, people who have been dealing with a very deep level of grief, in meditation, or just going about their daily lives have also described experiences that seem just like NDEs.

 

The Types of Near-Death Experiences

Studies of those who have had a near-death experience has shown that there are two different types of experiences; A Pleasurable NDE and a Distressing NDE. Most experiences have been reported as a pleasurable NDE. It has been reported that those in the NDE have involved mostly feelings of love, joy, peace, and bliss. Conversely, those that have gone through a distressing near-death experience, have said that the experience contains a number of negative emotions such as terror, horror, anger, isolation, and guilt. However, both types have reported that the experience had an amplified level of realism.

Aftereffects of a Near-Death Experience

Those who have gone through a near-death experience have claimed that their lives were changed forever by what happened in their experience. However, the same studies have shown that those who came back from an NDE were not just returning with a new love of life and a new spiritual outlook, but has significant psychological and physiological changes.

Psychological changes can take many forms, including changing in perception of attachments and societal norms. Family members of someone who has had an near-death experience, have reported that they have become more aloof, and sometimes have been seen as uncaring or unloving, due to a change in perception of relationships. Another psychological change is that NDE people have a change in a sense of time, they tend to, “go with the flow” and don’t make future plans and can sometimes see them as irrelevant when compared to doing something in the now.

Physiological changes can take the form of increased light and sound sensitivity, which in the most extreme cases, can require lifestyle changes. There have also been reports of substantial increases or decreases in energy as well as an increase in sensitivity to processed foods along with a change in diet.

All of these physiological and psychological changes can be extremely scary for family members and loved ones of someone who has had a near-death experience. However, all you can be is patient and loving. They will need you in the days, months, and years to come after this experience.