Thursday, November 01, 2007

Day of the Dead

Today is a public holiday here - Dia de Finados.

Each land has its own traditions of dealing with the dead, and Madeira is no different. In addition to burial or cremation, there's a third option which someone tried to explain to me: keeping the body in a 'graveyard drawer' for the first 1-3 years (depending on how quickly they're decomposing). It's normal for the family to inspect the body after a year, but the graveyard manager can check on your behalf, if you prefer. When the flesh has fallen away, the bones are then buried.

I wander around the small graveyard in Canico from time to time, perusing the gravestones. Traditional graves here are more ornate than I'm used to: most have photos in oval gilt frames, and inscriptions are more wordy. I am always struck by the upkeep of the graves - fresh flowers are everywhere, and you get stunning orchids arching from one grave to another, shading the little gifts or family photos that have been left for the dead.

And all that's in a normal week! Who knows what goes on on All Souls' Day...

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