Latin American Culture: Day of the Dead
To fulfill the task and understand the Latin American background better, I interviewed Yuli Marquez, my Facebook friend from Tijuana, Mexico. She was excited about different traditions and finally decided to tell me about Día de Los Muertos – the Day of the Dead. I was intrigued because I, naturally, remembered Halloween and wanted to know about the differences and similarities between the American and Hispanic cultures in this context.
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Día de Los Muertos is celebrated de facto on two days. On November 1st, chrisom children are honored, and adults are remembered the next day. The essence of this day is to pay respect to ancestors and the loved ones, family members and friends, who passed away: in this regard, Yuli noticed, the Day of the Dead bears some resemblance to Memorial Day in the USA. The most important tradition is to visit graveyards that are usually open to people since they are publicly owned or belong to local churches. Latin American families value memory and the past and maintain the graves reverently.
One of the distinctive features of this day is erecting altars. People create altars and decorate them with flowers and photos of the departed to commemorate deceased persons. It is necessary to bring fruits and other food and drinks in order to help the dead satisfy hunger and quench thirst. Yuli wrote that altars were especially popular in Mexico. As I discovered later, the reason was the integration of the Spanish culture and the Native people’s beliefs that the dead could be together with individuals they loved (Palmer, 2014).
Overall, the Day of the Dead celebrates the life and connection among people. Although it focuses on death, it helps understand the significance of every moment of being alive.
Vietnamese Culture: Traditional Wedding
Another interview I carried out referred to the Vietnamese marriage. My friend, Tu Anh Pham, explained that more and more young people preferred the Western wedding, but some Vietnamese people still followed their old traditions.
As a rule, an engagement ceremony is held six months before the marriage ceremony. The wedding date and time are chosen with the help of a Buddhist monk or a fortune-teller because the majority of the Vietnamese are superstitious. I was surprised to know that some girls postponed their marriage to avoid bad luck if their age ended with the following figures: 1, 3, 6, and 8. At the same time, I looked through some books and found that the influence of Confucianism was strong: getting married was considered the significant task of the couple as well as their parents and families (Whitmore, 2012).
The wedding ceremony incorporates many smaller ceremonies, such as applying for permission to get the bride, receiving her, and coming to the groom’s house together. During the ceremony, both families exchange symbolic presents, for example, betel, areca, different sorts of tea, wine, cigarettes, and so on. Some presents must be solemnly put on the ancestor’s altar to honor the departed. At this moment, the couple must pray. After that, the newly married couple receives blessings from their parents and other relatives. Finally, the wedding party is held by one or both families. It lasts about two hours: people enjoy delicious food, talk to each other, and listen to traditional Vietnamese wedding songs.
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To sum up, many elements of the traditional wedding ceremony are still present, but people tend to mix them with the Western traditions. In general, the Vietnamese know their traditions and respect them.
Palmer, B. (2014). Latino folklore and culture. Broomall, PA: Simon and Schuster.
Whitmore, J. K. (2012). Sources of Vietnamese tradition. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.