STAFF / EUROPE / Spirituality / MEMORIES

Day of the Dead

By staff writer Estrella Azul. Photos Copyright © Estrella Azul.

IF YOU EVER visit Romania in the Fall, and if you like visiting graveyards, try and arrange to be here around the end of October through the first couple of days of November.

In Romania, on November 1st, is the celebration of Világítás—Hungarian for Illumination—which is the Day of the Dead (also known around the world as Day of Remembrance, All Saints’ day, All Hallows Tide, or All Hallows’ Day).

Grave site in Kismező Cemetery

Grave site in Kismező Cemetery

The cult of the dead is pretty important in certain parts of Eastern European countries, especially on this day of the year. People have strong faith that on the night of the Day of the Dead, the souls of those who have passed are returning among the living.

A large part of Romania, regardless of religion or nation, give alms to the poor and go to the cemetery to clean the tombs, funeral statues and crypt facades yellowed over time from weather changes. They pull weeds, wash tombstones and sweep away the leaves from around grave sites.

The soldiers' cemetery, part of Házsongárdi Cemetery and a crypt

The soldiers' cemetery, part of Házsongárdi Cemetery and a crypt

On November 1st the center of my city, Cluj-Napoca, relocates for a couple of days to the Házsongárdi cemetery, also known as Central Cemetery. Dating back to 1585, this is one of the most picturesque sights and one of the oldest graveyards of the city, and also one of the largest cemeteries in South-Eastern Europe.

Hundreds of people shuffle through its otherwise lonely alleys, carrying fresh flowers in their arms while climbing or descending among leaf piles on both sides of the alleys.

They lay flowers and wreaths on the graves of relatives and/or close friends, then light candles and lampions and shed a tear, praying for the souls of the departed.

(Lampions are small plastic lantern-type lamps resembling their “ancestors”—oil lamps with tinted glass chimneys, formerly very popular as a source of illumination on carriages.)

Graveyards lit by hundreds of candles make the night feel magical

Graveyards lit by hundreds of candles make the night feel magical

One can spot so many lonely people taking a minute to recollect themselves at the graves of loved ones. However, many are also eager to socialize with family they meet up with there and to bring up past memories and impressions with friends they might only see on this occasion, in a noisier fashion, that continues until after nightfall.

After nightfall in Házsongárdi Cemetery

After nightfall in Házsongárdi Cemetery

I think the value of a person not only consists of the importance he or she gives to life, but also in the respect for the memory of those who aren’t among us anymore.

And, for some reason, the image of the lit cemetery gives me comfort that death is nothing but a mere trip somewhere far away.


Estrella in the Greek Amphitheatre ruins,
Taormina, Sicily

Estrella Azul is a young emerging writer, passionate about reading, floral art and photography, with an artistic personality and a soulful outlook on life. She is a Hungarian girl living and writing from Cluj-Napoca, Romania, the capital of historical region Transylvania. Estrella is our European correspondent, and she dreams of embarking on a round-the-world trip. To read more of her creative writing, her thoughts and daily happenings, visit Life’s a stage – WebBlog©.

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  1. Pingback: Honoring the dead | Life's a stage – WebBlog

  2. Wow – what a great post! Whenever I visit a historic town or a new country – I always visit the cemetery. To me, you learn a LOT of the history of a town there! One of my favorites was the Boot Hill Cemetery in Dead Wood, SD. I loved seeing “Wild Bill” Hicock and Calamity Jane’s grave….right next to each other!

    • Thank you, Ann!
      I think you’re right, one does learn a lot of the history of any town in its cemetery. Which is why I try to do the same if possible and visit the cemetery where ever I travel to (In Sicily it was the catacombs actually.)
      Oh, and I’d love to see the Boot Hill Cemetery!

  3. Wow Estrella, this is awesome.

    I’m always fascinated by the way different cultures deal with death and remembrance, and this seems like such a beautiful way to remember those who have moved on from this life.

    Thanks for a great post.

    • it makes me so glad to see how interesting you felt the article is, I like it when other people have similar interests.
      learning about other cultures and traditions, especially regarding death is always fascinating for me too.
      thanks for dropping by!

      (I see my phone doesn’t know who I am in bloggy-land) 🙂

  4. it makes me so glad to see how interesting you felt the article is, I like it when other people have similar interests.
    learning about other cultures and traditions, especially regarding death is always fascinating for me too.
    thanks for dropping by!

  5. I have never cared for Halloween, here in the US. Even as I child I didn’t enjoy it. I think the Day of the Dead tradition is lovely. Certainly not the commercialized “holiday” that Halloween is here.

    • I like the idea of Halloween, most probably cause we don’t have it here.
      But for honoring those who have passed, I think this tradition we have is pretty and fitting.

  6. Gianne says:

    Halloween is fun for me especially when I have my family to celebrate it with…Thanks for this idea here…

  7. I love to read more of this post because it really interests me a lot…Thanks for the nice post here…

  8. hi milli, have never seen so many lights at such ceremony before..
    At any normal fiesta it would have been a very merry occasion, to have this many lights..
    but since it is meant for the day of the dead… all the photos look very solemn to me.
    have a nice day, great post.

    • That’s exactly what I love about this tradition, the cemetery looks creepy at night any other time of year, but around this day, it looks solemn, yet so beautiful.
      Thank you, you have a nice day too. And Happy Thanksgiving!

  9. Just fascinating, Estrella! I had no idea the Day of the Dead was celebrated like this in Romania. Having lived in Latin America for many years, I know it is an important holiday there but I guess I never thought of where else it is celebrated.
    We were in Costa Rica for it this year and though we didn’t go to a cemetery on that day, we did notice how sparkling clean and pretty with flowers they were in the days immediately after.
    I can’t imagine what a cemetery dating from the 1500s must be like — wow, what history. I must say your posts are certainly making me want to visit Romania!

    • Yes, the celebration in Latin America is quite different, though close to how gypsies here celebrate. They’re up until late at night, having a small party. To me it’s a bit odd, since I wasn’t brought up to honor the dead that way, but I do like the concept behind their tradition.
      And Lisa, it makes me … more than happy that my articles make you want to visit Romania! 🙂

  10. Wow Estrella! great pictures…. especially the one at the very top. This is a great tradition you speak about and I think that cemeteries are beautiful….. full of memories and love.

    • Thanks, Mark! I also think that of cemeteries, remembering those who have passed is very important.
      However, if it’s not November first so they’re all lit up by the candles, they can be pretty scary if one visits at night.

      • Very true…… but with the exception of the night you talking about you have to wonder why one would want to visit a cemetery at night; other than maybe if they wanted to get scared or they were a vampire slayer or something. (LOL)

        • Well I was thinking of that more along the lines of someone passing by the cemetery on their way home from work, wanting to take a shortcut, or even living next to it… I sooo, couldn’t live next to one!

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  12. Thanks estrella! I love the photos.

  13. Razvan says:

    if you live in Cluj-Napoca, the Maramures county, is at the North of the Cluj county, you should visit the Merry Cemetery, in Sapanta village, and ask someone, to translate what’s written on the crux, it’s hilarious

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