All Saints’ Day (Todos Santos) | Bolivian Life
A combination of indigenous tradition and Catholic beliefs, November 1st marks Todos Santos, or All Saints’ Day, a day in which Bolivian families gather to welcome the returning dead.

Todos santos bolivia

Photo Credit: Szymon Kochański

Viewed as a celebration of reciprocity, this is the time of the year when the deceased get to enjoy an array of earthly delights provided by their families. In return for this kind gesture the spirits bring rains, ensuring bountiful crops in the coming year.

Photo Credit: Celina Ortelli

Photo Credit: Celina Ortelli

Celebrations begin at midday with a big feast (almuerzo) held by families to honor the departed. A shrine to the deceased is set up and a place set for them at the table where they are taken to be present and actively participating in the feast. The shrine is laid out with photos of the deceased, religious objects, coca leaves, baked bread effigies (called tantawawas) and many of the deceased’s favorite foods and drinks. A white tablecloth is laid out if the remembered deceased is a child and a dark one if the deceased is an adult.

The main dish served is mondongo, which consists of spicy pork accompanied by rice, potatoes and corn (called choclo). This is washed down with copious amounts of chicha (a fermented corn drink, sometimes served in a scooped-out pineapple) and singani (a spirit made from white grapes grown at altitude). Drinks are served in a circle, with each person in turn inviting their neighbor to drink.

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Guests are often invited, sometimes visiting many separate families throughout the day. Guests are always greeted with the obligatory chicha and singani, before tucking into the mondongo and the drinks which accompany it. So it’s not uncommon for participants to become quite inebriated by the end of the day.

Photo Credit: Pablo Andrés Rivero

Photo Credit: Pablo Andrés Rivero

Celebrated in a more solemn setting than the following day’s Dia de los Muertos festivities, this is a time for togetherness, where family and friends pray waiting for a sign that their loved ones have returned to them once more.

Are you spending Todos Santos in Bolivia? Have you already? Tell us in the comments…