Nov. 2nd (yes, I know that has passed us by) is the celebration of Finados. What is Finados you ask? good question and one that a cursory run through of the internet will not yield great answers to (unless you speak Portuguese or Spanish, which I do not (although I did take French in high school, but have yet to see any benefit here in North Carolina)). Finados gets connected often with All Saints Day (Nov. 1), but is not really the same. Finados is a Day of the Dead type celebration where the cemeteries are all spruced up and people bring flowers, light candles, and pray for loved ones that have passed away. It is not a day of tears, but rather a day of celebration for the life of the loved one.
Since it takes place so close to the more Christianized holiday of All Saints Day, most people just lump them together. But the true origins of Finados go beyond All Saints Day to possibly Mayan and Aztec times. How connected to Finados this is, I'm not rightly sure, but I do know that the Mayans kept the skulls of their ancestors to bring them out at times to honor them. I find this both a little icky and yet at the same time pretty cool. Skulls are pretty powerful symbols in Latin countries. The website Symbolic Meanings has a good entry on the symbolic meaning and the skull and the snake.
This year, one Brazilian family had an amazing Finados. It seems that poor Ademir Jorge Goncalves was killed in a car wreck this Sunday. The body was horribly mangled, but identified by several family members. The next day being Finados, the decided to hold the funeral for him. Right smack dab in the middle of the funeral, in walks Ademir Jorge Goncalves! It seems he was not out driving, instead he was out drinking with some buddies. I'm just thinking of the irony as some of those people must have been sitting there at the service, thinking if only they could see him one more time...
The person that was identified as him was later correctly identified (we hope) and buried later. The whole story is here. Happy Finados to you (a little late)!