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Celebrations of Life: Reasons to Dance

Annmary Ibrahim

Posted on July 17, 2020 03:11

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Even in the face of death, there is still music to be heard and reason to dance.

Everyone is familiar with the famous "dancing in the rain" cliché, a saying that essentially boils down to finding a reason to rejoice in the midst of hard times. Of course, this is much easier said than done, but there are incredible testaments to this cliché all over the world, through celebrations of life, that not only involve “dancing in the rain”, but also a way to dance in the face of death.

Beginning in Australia, the country is partially inhabited by the Aboriginal people and their mortuary rituals. These rituals begin with a smoking ceremony in the home of the departed to drive their spirit away. Then ochre, a clay pigment, is used to mark where the departed lived, and a flag is put up to signify where they died. The body is then laid out inside their home as those mourning celebrate their life, and after the body is wrapped, put on a platform, and covered in plants to decompose. After the body is put to rest the Aboriginal people have a celebratory feast and spend the evening singing and dancing in honor of the deceased.

Southwest of Australia is Madagascar, the home of the holiday of Famadihana, or the "turning of the bones." During Famadihana, families remove the remains of their dead, cover them in silk, anoint them, and bring them out for community-wide celebration as a way of including their passed-on relatives in their lives and showing them how much they are loved. This celebration includes a great feast and music as family members dance with the bones of their loved ones.

In the US, the celebration of life lies in New Orleans. Known for music and liveliness, New Orleans's  "Jazz Funerals" stay true to their roots. The funerals begin at a funeral home or church, and on the way to the cemetery a brass band plays sad and heavy ballads such as, "Nearer My God to Thee." However, on the way back from the cemetery, the band and all the mourners dance to upbeat and happy ragtime music, such as "When the Saints Go Marching In," as they celebrate life and music amidst death.

These celebrations are large scale examples of lessons that can be applied to the small scale of everyday life. Rather than beating yourself up over every failure or misstep, you can dance in honor of the effort you gave, and rather than scolding yourself for the risks you did not take or the ones that did not pan out, you can dance knowing you will get another chance to do better.

Throughout professional careers, social lives, and everything in between, there will always be trial after tribulation. However, life is about finding joy and when there is not much to be found; it is about making your own joy. To learn from the Aboriginal and Malagasy people, and residents of New Orleans, even in the face of death, there is still music to be heard and reason to dance.

Annmary Ibrahim

Posted on July 17, 2020 03:11

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