New Year traditions vary around the world. In the South American country of Chile New Years Eve is now spent by many families visiting the graves of their loved ones.
The practice is believed to have started in 1995 in the city of Talca, 158 miles south of the capital Santiago. One family climbed into the cemetery on New Years Eve to be beside the grave of their father, who had recently passed away. Rather than enforce the law, local authorities have taken the pragmatic view that it is a practice that should be encouraged rather than stopped.
Cemetery gates now remain open, with families commemorating their deceased members in various ways. For some it is a case of being by the graveside in quiet reflection, while others like to have bring something to eat and drink. To add some warmth and light, small fires are sometimes lit. Its not a case of going home when finished either, as many will then sleep by the graveside until daylight in temperatures that are not uncomfortable due to it being summer in the Southern Hemisphere.
Those that undertake this Chile New Years Eve tradition believe it is a key part of the bereavement process. They feel it can bring luck in the new year and also helps the souls of the deceased, making them at peace knowing they have been visited at this special time. It brings a sense of reunification with their loved ones and helps rekindle the notion that life is valuable and needs to be enjoyed.
It is estimated nowadays that 5,000 families undertake this tradition, in a city of around 200,000 inhabitants. Talca is famous for being where Bernardo O’Higgins signed the Declaration of Independence in 2018, freeing Chile from Spanish rule. Traditionally tourists have visited due to it being a wine producing region and its role in the Catholic church in Chile. However it is also slowly developing a reputation for this unique New Years Eve tradition.