Monday, September 30, 2019

III- Day of the Dead

The Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos) is a traditional celebration in Mexico as well as Central and South America.  The purpose is to remember family and friends who have died and to assist them on their spiritual journey. It is celebrated October 31, November 1, and November 2. These days coincide with the celebration of Allhallowtide - All Hallows Eve (Halloween) on October 31, All Saints Day on November 1, and All Souls Day on November 2.

Families set up alters (Ofrendas) to their loved ones, where they offer food and gifts. One such offering is a ‘Calavera’, an edible or  decorative skull. Some are cakes, others are made from clay.

Each of the 3 days, represents a separate celebration. October 31 is in celebration and memory of angelitos (spirits of dead children), when children build the Ofrendas. On November 1, it is believed the spirits of the adults return. Families visit and decorate the graves of their loved ones on November 2. Candy and toys are placed on the graves of the children and gifts for the deceased adults include Tequila, trinkets, and their loved one's favorite candy.

Many of the offerings and decorations feature Marigolds (the flower of the dead). In addition to the sugar skulls, there are paper skeletons, tissue paper decorations, incense, fruits, nuts, and candy. The celebrations involve food and drink, both for those alive and those departed. Even though crosses and traditional Christian symbols are often used, the Catholic church sees this as a pagan celebration. However, since this celebration dates back 2500 to 3000 years, it out dates Christianity.

A new addition to the celebrations are parades where family members dress in costumes of skeletons and other symbols of the dead and walk through the streets of their towns and cities. 

One common thread of all these celebrations that date back to before the Middle Ages, is the celebration of death. It gives mortals the chance to both celebrate and mourn their departed loved ones. It provides a link between the living and the dead. Researchers believe that those who mourn publically (some hysterically) handle the passing of their loved ones better than those who are quiet and hold their feelings in.

An excellent example of this is the African American culture in the south. If you have ever attended one of their funerals or Homecomings as they call them, then you should understand. I blogged several years ago on this: Don't Call the Roll, I'm Coming Home.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

II -Allhallowtide

All Saints Day has several other names. It is also called 'All Hallows Day' or 'Hallowmas' or 'The Feast of All Saints' or 'Solemnity of All Saints'. The day, by whatever name it is called, is the day that all the Saints are remembered by the church. A few churches celebrate it on other days, but for most Western Religions, All Saints Day is November 1st. 

Western Christian practice has it that the 3 days from October 31 through November 2 are the season of Allhallowtide. That includes All Hallows Eve (Oct 31), All Saints Day (Nov 1) and All Souls Day (Nov 2). October 31 was included because the celebration of Allhallowtide starts with vespers on that evening. Then All Saints Day went until midnight on November 1 when All Souls Day started. While All Saints Day was to celebrate and remember all the saints, All Souls Day was to pray for the souls of the departed.

The fact that October 31 was also the celebration of Samhain's Eve, the only day of the year the Celts believed evil spirits and the dead could wander the Earth, the early Christians believed it be a Pagan holiday. It would be easy to associate the pagan day with the days of Allhallowtide, however, there seems to be no association between the two. The term "Halloween" did come from the "Eve of All Hallows", as in the night before All Saints Day.

The celebration of the other 2 days, All Saints' Day and All Soul's Day, together came from the belief there was a bond between the living on earth and the souls in heaven. While All Saints day is set aside to celebrate the communion of all saints, All Souls Day is to pray for departed.
Image result for image of all saints day

All Saints Day is the day of prayer and celebration of the saints. While most had their own "Feast Day" ie August 24 is the Feast of St Bartholomew, September 8 is celebrated as the St Mary's Day, the Feast Day of St Margaret is November 16, and so on. There is a Saint celebrated every day of the year. List of Feast Days So, I assume, All Saints Day is to catch those Saints that didn't make the annual calendar.

All Souls Day is the day set aside to pray for the souls of those departed. In some cultures it is a day to visit the graves of those family members and loved ones. The graves are cleaned, some times including white washing the tomb stones.  Flowers, candles, and other gifts are placed on the graves in memory the departed.
Image result for images of garves with candles soul day

Church services were held for prayer and remembrance of those no longer with us. Traditionally, a list of those in the area who had departed that year was posted on the door of the church.

Friday, September 27, 2019

I - All Hallows Eve

Let's start with Halloween. Long before "Tricking or Treating", bobbing for apples, carved pumpkins, or costumes of Ninja Turtles, the holiday had ancient origins.  

It all started with the Celts in ancient Ireland. The festival Samhain was celebrated at the end summer, the end of the harvest season, when the days became shorter bringing about more darkness, and the weather turned cold.The Celts associated this time as one of death. They believed that on this one day the dead could return to Earth.  They believed these ghosts and evil spirits destroyed crops and wrecked havoc - they caused destruction to the natural world, as the Celts knew it.

To ward off the ghosts and spirits of the dead, the Druids  (the judges, priests, teachers of the Celts) lit bonfires to light the darkness. Knowing it was the day of the dead, the Celts dressed in costumes hoping the ghosts would not see them or if they did, confuse them with other ghosts or spirits, and leave them be. So there we have (one story of) the origins of costumes on Halloween.

From the ashes and embers of these sacred bonfires, the Celts lit their hearth fires, believing this would protect them during upcoming winter.

Sometime in the 700's AD Pope Gregory III proclaimed November 1 to be the celebration of the saints - All Hallows Day (aka All Saints Day), which is still celebrated today. That made the night before (October 31)  All Hallows Eve. Later Pope Gregory included the celebration of All Martyrs Day with the celebrations of All Saints. When the Romans ruled the United Kingdom, they combined their celebration of Feralia (when they acknowledged the passing of the dead)  and the day they celebrated Pomona, the Roman goddess of the celebrations of fruits and trees. 

Throughout time traditions, customs, and superstitions of All Hallow's Eve continue. Stepping on a crack in the sidewalk, spilling salt, or breaking mirrors would bring about bad fortune. Also, walking under a ladder.  (This came from the ancient Egyptians’ belief that triangles were sacred, ergo crossing one would bring about bad fortune.) Seeing a black cat cross the street in front of you walking left to right (or right to left, I can never remember) is a bad omen. Fun fact - the fear of black cats comes from the idea in the Middle Ages that witches turned into black cats to hide in plain sight.

Basically the Celts and their descendants through time feared evil spirits and tried to attract the good spirits. Most of the old rituals or beliefs can be traced back to the Middle Ages. People were always trying to perform small rituals that would prevent bad luck and bring about goodwill and good fortune from the better spirits.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Now what?

Thank you for letting me share the stories of my trip to Brazil. Not only did it give me a chronicle of the trip, it was a way to share the photos I took along the way with friends and family who had asked to see them.

Moving on. I came across some interesting articles on the Victorian area, which led to Christmas traditions of that time. Coming out of that rabbit hole, I realized that there was a lot about the history of Christmas as well as entertaining random facts, I knew nothing about. So I delved into learning more.

I only speak for me, but the idea of watching Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel starting in July is not appealing. So the idea of blogging on the Christmas holiday season starting in late September did not seem right - in so many ways. Most of us know much about the religious history of the celebration of the birth of Christ. However, the secular side is intriguing. I will go as far to say - fascinating. 

As I moved forward to the 1950's, I found traditions, stories, and facts that reminded me of the Christmases of my childhood. The stories I learned along the way went from soup to nuts - literally. Starting with feasts during the Elizabethian era to the traditions of the Stuart, and Georgian periods. Then I moved to the Victorians. Folks of that era were very serious about their holiday celebrations. 

There is history of Christmas in the new world that goes from the Puritans fighting anything they deemed pagan to the industrial revolution that changed Christmas into more of what we celebrate today. On to Santa Claus, 

the Sears Wishbook, Neiman Marcus, those aluminium Christmas trees, and other secular traditions.

Although I found a plethora of interesting facts and stories of the celebration and traditions of the Christmas Holidays, starting with the Tudor Period (1485  to 1603 ),  

I decided to delay writing about that until we are a bit closer to today's traditional holiday season.

Of course while navigating the rabbit hole of the history of Christmas, I came across more holiday traditions. Therefore, I decided it would be interesting - at least to me - to share what I learned about holidays - the rest of the story. All this will fold into Christmas, starting sometime in late October - early November. But, for now, we'll start with our next upcoming holiday - Halloween.

I hope you find this interesting.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

XXXX - Brazilian Steakhouse

I love beef, and am not ashamed to admit it. In the states I have eaten at several 'Brazilian  Steakhouses'. I always wondered if this was really something from Brazil or just slick marketing from Madison Avenue.  For example often perception has nothing to do with reality. Who knew? But I digress.

On our last day in Rio, we asked our driver for a recommendation for lunch. He suggested a place on a side street, saying it was very good and popular with locals -just what we were looking for. He dropped us off and said he would wait.

It wasn't a large place and when we entered, we saw it was packed, with men mostly. There were few smaller tables, most were long tables that ran almost the width of the restaurant.  We were seated at the end of one table that was almost full. The place was loud and bustling.
 (This picture is blurred since I took it backwards over my shoulder)

A waiter came over and asked us what we wanted to drink. Before we could answer he left and returned with a tray of colorful drinks. In Portuguese,  he identified each drink. 

I was undecided until he got to the glass of deep red Sangria. Sign me up. We ordered 2. When they arrived we were not disappointed.

Then we were shown the "salad" bar with contained everything from some green salads, hot and cold vegetables, cheese, fruit, and even fresh sushi. We made a few selections and returned to our table.

The waiter soon returned and handed us round discs, red on one side and green on the other. We were enlightened - we were in a true honest to God Brazilian Steakhouse, in Brazil. Fancy that!

Soon servers started coming around with large pieces of meat on skewers, everything from chicken to lamb to pork. There were sausages, tenderloin, mushrooms,  and some other meats I could not identify. 

It was all good, much better than most of the 'Brazilian' Steakhouses I had visited stateside. Then there were the deserts, a tray of pies, cakes, and puddings.

This was one of the best meals I had on the trip. And my question was answered- Yes, they have ‘Brazilian Steakhouses’ in Brazil.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

XXXVII- People of the Amazon

XXXIII - People of the Amazon

As a personal note, I have always thought of myself as a landscape photographer. But I have also found people such interesting subjects. Not formal portraits per se, but portraits of life. However, I am very self conscious taking photographs of people. It is as if I am invading their privacy. So I had to have a little talk with myself - to accept the idea that if I take a photo from afar, not ‘invading the subject's space’ and I am careful not to be in someone's face, it was OK. 

For this trip, I promised myself that I would venture out of my comfort zone and capture the human aspects of the places I visited. 

For example, every morning Ed (our 88 year old fellow traveler) did 30 minutes of yoga. Maybe this is why he is such a fit 88 year old!

There was the older woman manning her space in the market.

On the Copacabana Beach in Rio, this lady was selling colorful wraps.

And, you just never knew what you might see on a street in Rio.

There were always the children.

And, the social moments one gets to watch.

A fellow traveler on the bow of the ship.

Villagers taking their wares to the local soccer match.


And those just walking about.

Some folks should look in the mirror before they venture out to Ipanema Beach.

An indigenous man looks from a window.

Monday, September 23, 2019

XXXVI - On to Sugarloaf and Back

XXXVI - On to Sugarloaf and Back

After 15 minutes or so of taking in the views of Rio from Mt. Urca, it was time to mosey on up to Sugarloaf. We entered the 'port' and after a short wait boarded one of the cars to go even higher. This was the view from the our cable car as we made our way up to the top.

On the top of Sugarloaf there were several large terraces at different levels. Once again, the views were breathtaking, although I did not venture to the edge.

In addition to the terraces with their views, there were paths that wound their way around the top of the mountain through the lush jungle greenery. 

I'm not sure when these paths were built, but considering the way they were constructed they looked old, well constructed, by old. There were staircases up and down.

There were shaded terraces with sitting areas on them stuck here and there. Views of the city below could be glimpsed through the leaves.

As with everywhere else, there were illiterate tourists who could not read the posted signs 'Do Not Feed the Animals." This idiot was trying to feed a Marmoset.

A little history, the Cable Car system was built in 1912. The original coated wood cable cars were in service for 61 years. 

(One of the retired cars on display.)

In 1972, the system was completely renewed. The 'Sugarloaf and Mt Urca National Monument' became a 'World Heritage Site' in 2012. 

Time to return back to the base of the mountain. The weather had been sunny with a breeze that kept the temperature fairly comfortable. It was only when we boarded the cable car, that we realized it wasn't a breeze it was a wind.

Certainly out of an abundance of caution, they would not operate the cars in the wind, I thought. That question was answered when the door closed and the operator started the car moving. As we left the port, the car started rocking. Great, I had survived the trip up. In fact, it went so well, my fears were allayed. Oh, the false sense security.

Slowly we made the trip down to the lower hill, swaying a bit as we went. Note here, any swaying - little or not, is harrowing when in a glass car with 65 strangers, thousand's feet above the ground, hanging on a thin cable. Since I am writing this, you can see I survived. 

Once at the lower port, we walked past the wall of icons. I'll take any comfort in a storm, or in this case, religious intervention from any source.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

XXXV - The First Ride

XXXV - The First Ride

After praying to the icons, I decided to pass up prostrating myself before their wall - I did have some pride left, even in the fear of my pending doom. We made our way in the line to the waiting glass carriage of death. As we boarded the car, I paid close attention to the warning "Carefully Step Over the Gap". Close attention? It was hard not to notice the gap between the boarding area and the car, since if one looks down all one sees is a drop of several hundred feet.

Once on the car, I made sure I was close to one the standing poles (simliar to those you find on a subway) for something to hold on to for dear life. I am lucky that I only have acrophobia and not claustrophobia. Because 65 people on one of these cars is a lot.

(They have this replica on the terrace of Morro da Urca. This is exactly like the ones that make the journey every 20 minutes or so.)

As soon as the car was loaded and the door closed, the operator pulled a lever. The car began to leave the 'port'. In just a moment we were thrust into the bright light, hanging by a cable moving up to the first stop (Morro da Urca aka Mt. Urca). There were oohs and ahs from most of the travelers. Me not so much. I just kept my gaze straight ahead, not looking down.

The views were very impressive, scary - but beautiful, never the less. Watching another car coming down from Mt. Urca just reinforced  reality that I was hanging by a cable in a glass car. But, that was just me.  It was then I remembered a fight James Bond had on one of these cars in Moonraker.  Best not think of that now, given I'm pretty sure that cable car crashed.

Soon we were pulling into the station on Mt Urca.

We left the car, walked through the 'port' and onto the terraces of Mt. Urca. The views were splendid. 

Friday, September 20, 2019

XXXIV- Saying a Prayer and Up the Mountain

XXXIV - God Save my Soul

Sugarloaf mountain (Pão de Açúcar) is really a rock outcropping on a peninsula that rises about 1300 feet above the Rio at the mouth of the Guanabara Bay as it flows into the South Atlantic Ocean. Also on the peninsula is a lower peak, Morro da Urca, It is known for 2 things: its incredible views of Rio and its cable car system that carries people in to the top. Actually, it is 2 parts. The first part takes one from downtown Rio to the Morro da Urca. One exits the car. There are observation decks, a bar, gift shops, and food vendors. From the lower mountain there is a 2nd cable system that whisks travelers to the top oPão de Açúcar.

All this is exciting and, some may say thrilling. For me, who is deathly afraid of heights, it is frightening. To make it worse the cars are glass sided. The idea of getting in a "car' made of glass with 64 other strangers and traveling up a mountain on a cable hanging in the air is not my idea of fun. But I digress.

The cars run every 20 minutes. That gave me time to confess my sins, pray to God, and reconsider all the decisions I have made in my life. In designing the initial station, the powers to be took this into consideration.

One wall that runs the length of the station is made of lovely hewn wood. Enclosed in the wall are small windows that upon closer examination, I saw were shadow boxes. Inside each box was a traditional religious icon. They were different sizes and styles.

Here are a few examples of the various icons.

Each is remarkable in its own way. I just regretted not bringing candles to rest at their feet as I prayed for my safety. Hopefully they could protect me. But then, what did I have to fear. After all they said almost 2500 people a day made the trip. I did note that the sign on the wall touting that figure did not mention how many of those poor souls have fallen to their death on the rocks below.