Discovering New Rituals Across the Ocean

Last October, I was across the ocean with Renske and David. We spent several days delving into leadership. At the International Leadership Association in Vancouver, we were immersed in lectures, workshops, and networking events about leadership. Particularly, a seminar on female leadership in academia was very inspiring.

The visit also gave me the opportunity to discover rituals around the conference ‘that you normally only see in movies’, to use the words of Guus Meeuwis.

For instance, we celebrated Thanksgiving together. This day is celebrated in Canada on the second Monday of October, this year on October 9. The holiday is slightly different from the version in the United States. But here too, the ‘good harvest’ is central. It is similar to our Harvest Thanksgiving Day. Pumpkins are seen everywhere. During the meal, we naturally had a conversation about ‘what are you grateful for yourself’.

But we also experienced Halloween. In the Netherlands, we are familiar with traditional Christmas lighting. People decorate their houses and gardens with Christmas lights, reindeer, etc. In Canada, Halloween is just as grand. Gardens were filled with ghosts, skeletons, pumpkins, etc. Sometimes even animated scenes. People really go all out. Of course, stores are also fully stocked. I had to get used to all the skeletons. It goes quite far.

Fortunately, I also came into contact with the more religious festival Dia de los Muertos, the Mexican festival and remembrance day. The day is a combination of pre-Columbian and Catholic traditions, say All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day. During this period around the Day of the Dead, people clean and decorate the graves of loved ones. They scatter trails of fragrant flower petals. Many families build altars at home, but also in churches. Here, food is offered. All the food is intended for the souls of the dead. Skulls are also widely used as a symbol here.

I saw the altars being built in local small churches. I spoke with a number of people about this, of course in my best Spanish. While we in Europe on All Souls’ Day mainly ‘name names’, here other ‘image creators’ are used: flowers, scents, photos. I was surprised at how open and welcoming the Catholic parishes are in this.

I almost bought out the entire skeleton store.

Motiv dia de las muertos
MoTiv TU Delft dia de los muertos
Gunther Sturms MoTiv TU Delft foto door Joram Boumans

Günther Sturms

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