There are some pretty bizarre traditions connected to the celebrations of the New Year. Some people in Ireland hit the walls of their homes with loaves of bread to ward off evil spirits; Romanian locals try to talk to animals, and the people of Johannesburg throw furniture out the window to get rid of bad luck. However unbelievable these customs may appear, the most unusual New Year’s celebration comes from the city of Talca in Chile.
The people of the city of Talca spend New Year’s Eve at their local graveyards, in the company of their deceased friends and relatives. This seems like a grim and heartbreaking tradition, but the locals claim that spending the night with their deceased loved ones brings peace to their souls and ensures them a lucky new year.
They bring food and drinks to the graveyard and often light small fires next to the graves of their deceased; they have a chance to be reunited with the ones they have lost and they can make sure that the dead are not alone on the eve of the celebration. Decorating graves is not unusual in Latin America; it is often associated with the Day of the Dead, one of the most important holidays.
This tradition is quite a recent one, starting in 1995 when a local family jumped over the cemetery fence to spend their New Year’s Eve with their recently deceased father. Local authorities were moved by the family’s decision and decided to alter the local laws: until then the cemeteries were supposed to be closed on New Year’s Eve, but since then they remain open and people are encouraged to decorate the graves of their deceased loved ones and celebrate with them.
While most people are used to champagne, confetti, fireworks and a lot of food, some people choose to spend the evening in quiet remembrance of their deceased loved ones.
This may at first seem depressive or even uncanny but it is, in fact, a peaceful and selfless tradition that helps people to turn sorrow and grief into a constructive way of coping.
Many Latin American traditional customs are related to death, and numerous festivals are organized across the continent to honor the deceased.
While many cultures are inherently frightened of death, some seem to find unusual ways to make peace with this inevitable phenomenon.