Tweet Except for Christmas, All Souls Day is probably one of the holiest of days in Timor-Leste. It's the day that the dead are honored -- families go to the cemetery -- light candles and place flowers on the graves of their loved ones. If the family is unable to travel home then they go to the nearest cemetery -- where there is always a large communal cross -- families can pray for their loved ones and place candles and flower pedals around the cross.
The photo above was snapped in Dili's Santa Cruz cemetery -- where thousands of people came today -- some have relatives buried there, but many others don't -- hence the large bonfire around the cross.
Below, a young woman places candles at the gravesite of a relative.It's a beautiful idea and one that I was unfamiliar with, first hand, although I had read about All Souls Day and Day of the Dead. It is nice to experience these ceremonies, celebrated so intensely, after a number of years living in Muslim and Buddhist countries.
The bonfire at the cemetery reminded me of the Novruz (New Year's) ceremony in Azerbaijan each spring -- around the middle of March. Bonfires are built in the streets and people jump over the flames as a way of cleansing the soul.
All Souls Day comes from the ancient Pagan Festival of the Dead, which celebrated the Pagan belief that the souls of the dead would return for a meal with the family. It's always celebrated on November 2.