Wednesday, November 02, 2005

For all the saints

Greetings on “Jour de Toussaints,” or All Saint’s Day,

We have just returned from a two hour visit to the town cemetery where we celebrated Jour de Toussaints. Today, November 1st, is a national/religious holiday in Togo and hundreds of Catholics from the 3 Atakpamé parishes gathered together on and around the tombstones to honor the dead.

We should have taken a photo of the cemetery a few days ago so we would have a “before and after” picture. The “before” photo 2 days ago would have shown overgrown grass and weeds covering the tombstones with vultures circling above and roosting in the trees. (We thought perhaps the cemetery had been abandoned, especially because the dump on the hill above it overflows into it). Now we know that each year, a couple days before Jour de Toussaints, people come with their machetes to cut down the weeds and give the tombstones a fresh whitewash.

The ceremony started in late afternoon. Everyone brought candles to place on their family tombstones and a procession of hundreds from the church, led by cross bearing alter boys and priests, reached the cemetery, where hundreds more were already gathered,. Then the vicar arrived by car, processed into the cemetery, and held a service with burning incense and holy water sprinkled on the crowd. After a short message from the vicar and songs from the choir, it began to get dark and the candles were lit and placed on the tombstones. It was really quite beautiful, especially as night fell, and we hope you can get an idea of it from the photos we’ve attached. For those of you who know Wayne’s favorite hymn, you will also know we couldn’t help but sing to ourselves “For All the Saints…”

So even though we missed the USA version of All Hallow’s Eve (and the fun of seeing the costumed kids and handing out candy to the neighborhood trick-or-treaters), we were able to celebrate All Hallow’s Day in a memorable way.


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