Since arriving in Honduras, I have been lucky enough to experience a few different celebrations. Some are very similar to what we may see in the UK whereas others have many noticeable differences.
I have only attended the reception of a Honduran wedding so far. The ceremony was conducted in a church, as many are back in the UK, and the bride wore a beautiful white dress. The reception itself felt familiar too, with people gathered together for a meal, wedding cake and dancing. The only difference was the music and style of dance, which kicked off after the bride and groom had had their first dance as husband and wife.
Sadly, I have witnessed more than one funeral while in La Villa. I did not attend the ceremonies or burials but witnessed the procession through the streets. The coffin is carried among a throng of mourners to the church, usually by the closest male family members and friends. After the funeral in the church, the procession continues to the cemetery on the outskirts of the town for the burial. It is not uncommon in the UK for it to be 10-14 days after passing that a funeral is held. Here, it is usually within a few days. The deceased are only buried here, they do not have cremation.
Dia de los Muertos
The Day of the Dead is held on 2 November. While it sounds grim and a bit depressing, it is a day full of celebration in the names of those that have passed. We were invited by our host family to join them in the cemetery. To us this seemed a bit strange as cemeteries back home are known to be quiet, morbid places where no one speaks above a whisper and keeps to themselves.
When we arrived, we were greeted by the sight of people selling flowers and decorations, food stands and a very social scene. It is tradition that people sit by or on the elaborately decorated graves and enjoy the favourite food of those that have passed in remembrance. And the food is not just for the family. People talk, call out to each other and share the foods they have prepared. It was almost like a huge congregation of picnickers, just in a cemetery rather than a park.
To my good fortune, my birthday was the 7 November, which means I got to celebrate my birthday Honduran style. Things here are similar to the UK; cake, decorations, party snacks, music, dancing, karaoke, gifts. The only thing I can’t say I enjoyed was the tradition of egging the person celebrating their birthday. Usually the egging consists of flour and water too so it becomes like unmixed cake batter, which makes sense until you try and wash it out of your hair. I wasn’t the first to embrace this tradition, and I certainly won’t be the last, so I look forward to returning the favour to some of my counterparts.
Another celebration I experienced was a baby shower. We gathered in a large room decorated with pink and white balloons, music playing and waited for the festivities to begin. The entire event was a surprise to mum to be and she came in blindfolded. After she settled into the party, the games began. Unfortunately, they were in Spanish so we took much, much longer to complete them than everyone else, but as they say, it’s the taking part that counts. Just like home there was food and drinks served and music in between games. People bought gifts for mother and baby and speeches were also made.
It has been increasingly interesting to experience the ways that Hondurans celebrate different occasions in their culture. I hope to see more examples before I depart.
Written by ICS volunteer Carla Ellaway