What is the All Souls Procession?
The All Souls Procession is a ceremony that originated in Tucson in 1990 to bring together all different cultures, art forms and kindred spirits to celebrate the lives of those that are no longer with us. This procession is a cultural celebration that correlates with the Día de Los Muertos, a Mexican holiday that honors loved ones who have passed away. While traditional American culture finalizes a passing with a funeral, some Latin American cultures choose to carry on legacies and memories with annual celebrations and offerings of food, art, flowers and treats as gifts to the ones they’ve lost. This procession is a way for a community to come together to feel comfort in their shared experiences and emotions and show appreciation for family and friends and the bonds that bind us. There are many components involved in this event that last an entire weekend in early November.
Procession of Little Angels
One of the most meaningful segments of the All Souls Procession is the Procession of Little Angels, which takes place on the Saturday before Sunday's finale in Armory Park. This particular part of the celebration allows children to take part in the festivities by decorating angel wings and sugar skulls to honor the deceased in a special and kid-friendly way. There are art workshops for costume making and traditional face painting to make the event more participatory and engaging. When the sun sets, everyone in attendance is welcome to join in the Procession of Little Angels around the park, where student groups perform circus acts and stories in celebration.
The Children's Altar
The most integral part of the Little Angels Procession is the Children's Altar, where parents and friends collaborate to create a memorial of the young departed. Everyone is welcome to contribute something of meaning to honor them. Some bring toys, possessions of those who passed, and some bring photographs or poems. It is a place of peace to show support and recognition of loved ones taken too soon.
Personal Altars Vigil
Beyond the specialized Children's Altar is a more all-encompassing Personal Altars Vigil, also in Armory Park, designed to include all honorees participants wish to remember. This is not limited to people, and can span from a departed pet to a war-locked country, to an ancestor from centuries past. In 2016, for example, some chose to honor the Syrian refugees who have experienced torment and loss throughout recent battles and political turmoil. The very nature of this vigil is inclusion, and no soul goes unvalued through the loving and accepting spirit of the event. All religions, traditions and opinions are welcome as long as they are demonstrated with respect to all who wish to participate.
The Ancestors Project
Ironically, the Ancestors Project is one of the most modern spectacles encompassed within the All Souls Procession. It allows mourners and celebrators to create a permanent record of a memorial for a loved one by contributing photographs personalized by messages to be added to a digital memorial. Once all contributions are collected, they are combined to create a digital collage to be presented and projected at the All Souls finale. The most modern aspect of this is the option to contributors to add these memorials to an ever-growing collection on the Procession's Facebook album. This album, titled All Souls Stories: This Is Why We Walk, is added to annually in a chronological format, to create an aggregate of all memorialized souls, as they are remembered by those who love them most. In this digital age, it is not only important to include these modern methods of reproduction, but therapeutic to allow mourners to share their stories in a place where others can collaborate and contribute as well. This social element is a way of healing together and unifying community members in the process. Knowing that a loved one will forever be honored in a place that cannot be deleted gives people hope that those who have passed will not be forgotten or unnoticed.
All Souls Procession and Finale Ceremony
All events come to a precipice on Sunday, where the Procession takes place as a culmination of cultures, religions, and traditions come together in a procession walked by thousands on a mission to honor the loved ones that will be remembered long after the procession has ended. Portable altars, floats, religious memorabilia and photographs adorn the streets and fill the arms of the participants. Painted faces and costumed children fill the crowds in a purposeful walk down a literal memory lane. The walk begins at 6th Avenue and progresses to Mercado San Agustin off of Congress Street for the Finale. The ceremony commences with a symbolic ritual that includes the placement of thousands of collected messages and remembrances into one Urn. Theses mementos are burned in the Urn as a way to symbolically transform memories and prayers into a peaceful release of collective emotions.
Many Mouths One Stomach
This is a Tucson-based nonprofit organization that is responsible for organizing the All Souls Procession each year. They are comprised of local artists, community activists and teachers whose mission is to promote modern festal culture to create events that bring the community together. Through creativity, artistic expression and community contribution they honor loved ones and each other with various local events.
The All Souls Procession is a personal way for people to process grief while celebrating the lives of loved ones. One can never know what it is like to experience a loss until they are faced with the passing of someone who held a deep meaning in their lives. This Procession became personal for me when I lost my sister Melissa last May. She loved Halloween and its correlation with the Día de Los Muertos, but most of all she loved her children and bringing a smile to everyone's face with her hilarious antics. Below is a picture of her, a digital remembrance that encompasses the very meaning of this Procession. May all of our loved ones be honored and remembered.
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