Gifts for the Dead

Now that the Christmas holiday is officially over we are busily enjoying the gifts we got, or returning unwanted ones to the store. But gifts aren’t only for the living, they have also been given to the dead throughout history.

1. Pchum Ben: This Cambodian festival is celebrated once a year, on the 15th day of tenth month of the Khmer calendar. Prior to this there are 15 days of religious celebration and honoring the deceased. Once the 15th day is reached, the Cambodians believe that the gates of hell open to allow for offerings to the dead and ancestors to be made. By giving them these offerings of food, they may have the opportunity to end their period in purgatory, or gain general benefits for those who are not. The gift is traditional sticky rice, which is thought to be easily consumed by the spirits. The food gifts are given to the monks, not directly to the dead. However, by the monks consuming the food it is thought to go indirectly to the deceased and honor is received by feeding the monks. (Via Escape Artist)

Day of the Dead figurines, via Wikipedia

Day of the Dead figurines, via Wikipedia

2. Dias de los Muertos: This holiday is celebrated primarily in Mexico, although other cultures celebrate similar festivals. It is celebrated on November 1st to 3rd. The focus is on the gathering of family and friends around the deceased. The goal is that by visiting the graves and bringing gifts they will encourage the spirits of their deceased loved ones to visit them. Gifts for the dead are personal to the individual and can include their favorite food and beverages. Poems, stories and songs are written as gifts, and shrines may be built within the home. The sugar skulls that have become the most well known symbol of the festival are not offerings, but rather meant to symbolize and call forth the spirits of the dead. (Via Wikipedia)

3. Qingming: Qingming is when Chinese people visit the graves or burial grounds of their ancestors on the 105th day of the Winter Solstice (April 4 or 5th). The practice has been going on for over two thousand years, and traditionally involved bringing a whole rooster to the graveside. All family members take part in the festival, cleaning up the graves of their ancestors and laying offerings before them. The tradition has become less formal, and now the offerings consist of food, tea, wine, chopsticks, and drink. Willow branches are also left by the graves as they are thought to help ward off the evil spirits. (Via

Hope you enjoyed your holiday and the gift giving season, and remember to take time to give something to the deceased!

Normal Bones Don’t Lie posts will resume starting January 8th!

2 responses to “Gifts for the Dead

  1. Pingback: Happy Holidays: Gifts for the Deceased | Bones Don't Lie·

  2. Pingback: Happy Holidays from the Saturnalia Skeleton! | Bones Don't Lie·

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