All Souls’ Day is a national holiday in Bolivia and a relatively major one at that. It is considered important as a time to remember the dead and to pray for them.
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It is tradition for families set up elaborate tables or whole rooms loaded down with delicious foods and sweets for the departed to enjoy should they return for the night. It is thought that these visiting spirits send rain and an abundant harvest to farmers in return for the gifts they receive.
A shrine is often set up in honour of specific departed relatives, and there is a big feast for all in attendance. A spiced-up pork dish called “mondongo” is the main culinary attraction, but rice, corn, potatoes, and other dishes and sides are present as well. Some also wash it all down with some locally made “chicha”, a kind of fermented corn beverage”.
It is virtually required to drink chicha and eat mondongo if you attend such a party. Drinks are passed around the “family circle”, and people sometimes get rather tipsy. They then wait for a “sign” that the departed loved one has visited them. The next day, there is a more formal celebration, perhaps at a local church, but this one is a laid-back “family affair”.
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