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The Heritage Trails are presented courtesy of CKUA Radio Network and Cheryl Croucher

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Cemetery Day in Raymond

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Japanese people began migrating to the prairies in the early 1900s. Those who settled in Raymond, Alberta, continued observing the most important festival of their Buddhist tradition.

As historian David Goa explains, this is called the Feast for the Ancestor.

And in Japan it's common for people to go home on that occasion. I don't know that the computers stop running, but it comes awfully close to that - it's a huge festival in Japan.
And people will go to the local cemetery sites, the local columbarium where the ashes of their ancestors are. They will create, if you will, pathways from the cemetery to the gate of their home, to the threshold of their home, and they will create a space in the home for the ancestor.
It is a time to remember those who go before you.
In modern secular society, we have almost no language for this, no way of doing this. But this is highly abnormal. For most of the human family, there is always a regard for those who have gone before.

The Buddhist festival made quite an impression on the other residents of Raymond, especially the Mormons, who also value their ancestral heritage.

To me, one of the most wonderful things that I've run across in my work, is how at Raymond, Alberta, some years back, the local community had noticed over the years that their good friends and neighbors, the Japanese Buddhists, on this particular day in the summertime, usually in August - the Buon Festival - would go together up to the cemetery, just outside the confines of Raymond, and pay some attention, bring some fruit and what have you, lay it on the grave, open the door of the columbarium, have a brief service of thanksgiving for the ancestor there.
So the Burgermeisters of Raymond approached the Japanese community and talked about this wonderful thing that they were seeing and asked if it would be okay if they were to declare O Buon the Cemetery Day for the town, so that everybody in the town would then give this some attention.

And that's how Cemetery Day came to be celebrated in Raymond each summer.

On the Heritage Trail,

I'm Cheryl Croucher.

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