In Transylvania – the birthplace of the ultimate Halloween ghoul, Dracula, locals somberly celebrate what in United States is known as “Halloween” by honoring their dearly departed with a modest display of candles and flowers placed over their graves - but in the Gypsy section of the cemetery it’s a party.
Halloween’s predecessor, what is colloquially known as “Day of the Dead”, is celebrated by Gypsies of Reghin by the dusk hour march up the hill towards the local cemetery. They carry baskets of food and drink to be shared around the graves of mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers, or in many cases their children. Child mortality rate of Romanian Roma is reported to be four times higher than the majority.
The ancient tradition that some onlookers perceive as a morbid fascination with death is, for the participators, a surreal inclusion of the deceased in the important social moment of mealtime. Though the tangible body no longer exists, their presence remains near. They dress-up the dearly departed for the date by polishing the tombstone and decorating the mound in a pattern of colorful flowers and illuminating candles. The picnic baskets are emptied. Food and drink is passed around. The circle of friends and family toast the deceased. A toast never begins without a symbolic thumbnail of drink poured into the earth.
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