A festival of death? Isn’t that a bit morbid? It is an uncomfortable subject for a lot of us. But consider the Mexican Day of the Dead. Every year Mexicans fill their cemeteries with music, food and life to honour their deceased. However in our culture death and dying are generally regarded as something to fight against, deny, hide from public view and above all fear. And we don’t get a chance to remember the people we have loved and lost. Death and not talking about it causes many problems. It deprives the dying of the best possible death and then isolates the bereaved.
But what if we were to look at them differently? Despite understandable fear and denial, there are good reasons to explore death and dying. Thinking about the end of life – our own and that of others – can make our lives richer, deeper and more valuable to us. If we understand it we can better prepare for our own deaths and the deaths of those we love. Death, in truth, is a normal part of life.
So, what about inventing a new Day of the Dead for the 21st century? There are already some festivals about death being held in the UK and around the world and inspired by the trailblazers in this field, Majorca resident and professional celebrant, Glynis German’s contribution has been to start a festival for all of Spain. She has gathered together a team of twelve women living around Spain to schedule and plan the country’s first ever festival about death, dying and grief. It starts appropriately enough on All Souls Day, Sunday November 1st and runs for a week online. Religious or atheist? It doesn’t matter, death comes to us all and this festival will offer something for everyone.
In this difficult year we have never in our lifetimes had to contend with so many unprecedented changes to our lifestyle, and threats to our health and wellbeing. And never has there been such a need to talk about death and dying: the whole festival “Giving Life To Death” will be online and open to everyone to attend. Glynis is no stranger to online ceremonies having conducted the first online funeral ceremony in Majorca during the lockdown and a beautiful Easter ceremony for the Majorca, Mallorca, At Home Together Facebook group.
The festival will be made up of a series of activities dedicated to exploring, making visible and normalising the theme of death and the process of dying. In addition to facilitating discussions the festival organisers hope that it will act as a meeting point between the many associations and people who work on the different aspects and moments of the dying process.
The first event will be the inauguration of a “Before I Die” wall which is a global art project inviting people to contemplate death and reflect upon their lives. Originally created by Candy Chang on an abandoned house in New Orleans after the death of a loved one, there are now over 5,000 walls around the world. There will be two in Majorca, in Sa Pobla and in Binissalem.
On Sunday there will also be a tribute ceremony in which deceased loved ones will be remembered. During the week there will be three conferences by renowned speakers in this sector (Dr. Gabi Heras, Mar López, Tew Bunnag, Dr. Julio Gómez and Alba Payas); and two film forum nights at the CineCiutat in which they will present the directors of the two films that they are going to screen (“The rest of the days” and “ULU, Un Latido Universal”). A fair is scheduled in different locations throughout Spain in which spaces will be provided for each community to carry out its own programme, there will be visits to cemeteries and funeral homes, music concerts, a huge online Death Cafe and talks by non-profit organisations dedicated to cancer, palliative care, compassionate communities, health professionals, end-of-life care workers, volunteers in these types of associations, bereavement therapists, funeral celebrators, among others, whose testimonies they hope will help the attendants of the festival to see death from a different perspective. Some of the programme will be in Spanish and some in English. As far as possible, the activities will be free. The events will be streamed live and will be available to watch again afterwards. Contact 666 987 430, visit dandovidaalamuerte.org and the YouTube channel “DANDO VIDA A LA MUERTE”.
Sunday 1st November
“Before I die” Wall inauguration 10.00 – 14.00 Sa Pobla in English and Spanish
Multi religion ceremony 17.00 – 18.00 Bon Sosec Crematorium in English and Spanish
Conference Dr Enric Benito 19.00 – 20.30 Sa Nostra Foundation Palma in English and Spanish
“Before I die” Wall inauguration 15.30 Can Gelabert Binissalem in English and Spanish
Living with loss, When a parent loses a child with Mansha Daryanani and Isa Hope 17.00 YouTube in English
Open Door event 10.00 – 14.00 Bon Sosec Crematorium in English and Spanish, booking essential
A guide to who’s who, meet the volunteers and professionals in Majorca 12.00 – 13.00 YouTube in English
Fair 10.00 – 14.00 Misericordia Palma
The world’s biggest Death Cafe on Zoom 17.00 – 19.00 in English and Spanish