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One finds stacks of fruit, bowls of rice, and other delicacies heaped atop Chinese graves. These are intended for the enjoyment of the ancestors in their afterlife. A happy ancestor brings good fortune to his descendants.

The story goes that a European visitor came to lay flowers on the grave of his father. Near him, he spied a Chinese gentleman laying a small feast on the grave of his father. The European smiled and asked the Chinese when he expected the ancestor to rise up and partake of the meal. "I suspect he will do so at the same time your's comes to smell his flowers."

On Mexico's Day of the Dead, one often sees families having a picnic atop the grave. A place is set in front of the tombstone for the lost loved one and the marker is included in the circle as if it were one of the living.

See libations, bread, water, candy skull, salt.

Photo: Hoy Sun Cemetery, Colma, California
Copyright 1996 by Joel GAzis-SAx