Allerzielen Alom


All Souls’ Day has long been a Catholic tradition. People pray for the dead, light candles, and place chrysanthemums on the graves. In countries such as Poland, Mexico, Spain and Italy, an All Souls’ Day celebration on 2 November is more than just a visit to the grave with flowers. All Souls’ Day is celebrated with food, drink, and music. Cemeteries in Poland are bathed in a sea of candlelight. Although All Souls’ Day is considered a Catholic celebration, is it much more universal than that. The celebration originates from the Celts, who wanted to ward of darkness and the dead.

Modern society
A void is forming in our culture when it comes to remembering the deceased. This is due the fact that religion has become less accessible to society, and that the funeral industry had become very commercialised. Dealing with grief and loss has become a problem, although death is part of life. If the dead could take center stage once a year, there would be less need for therapy.

Allerzielen Alom* offers an artistic answer to these essential questions in our society. It remakes an old Catholic tradition and offers the opportunity to commemorate the dead in a way which fits in with a modern secular way of living. Celebrations which are accessible and inspiriational to all are organised with respect, care, and forethought in cemeteries or in so-called ‘ritual landscapes’. Artist Ida van der Lee developed the concept using art. Art is the driver for the imagination, providing access to the mystery of death. Allerzielen Alom is innovative because it focusses on the ‘life which was lived’ and not on loss and grief. The motto for Allerzielen Alom is ‘Do not silence the dead, but instead, celebrate them for who they were and what they can tell us.’  This way of thinking has broken a taboo, and has resulted in people coming forward with their lost loved ones.

Allerzielen Alom fills a large but latent need, connected with a secular society. This was apparent in the results of 400 questionnaires developed and evaluated by the Radboud University in their research into personal religion and new rituals related to the dead. The experience was intense, and there was a clear desire for more.

Another form of recognition came from the funeral industry itself. Allerzielen Alom received the 2008 Yarden prize of EUR 25,000. This is a prize for innovation related to death and rituals surrounding death. Allerzielen Alom has also received support from the church. It has been mentioned in sermons, and the theologian from the diocese Haarlem has praised it in his writings. Much attention has been received from the media, press, and trade literature. It has appeared seven times on television, and around 70 times in the written press, trade journals, and other publications.

Passing on the flame
The goal of the Allerzielen Alom foundation is to make All Souls’ Day a living tradition and to have it celebrated at more and more locations. The goal for 2009 is to support communities so that they can set up their own Allerzielen Alom celebrations in the future. Artists work together with local artists and amateurs. A team made up of a local or regional artist, and a professional from the funeral industry would be put together to organise Allerzielen Alom celebrations.

* The Dutch name for this project, ‘Allerzielen Alom’, means literally, ‘All Souls’ Day for Everyone’. This is an unwieldy definition for a translation into English. Given that Allerzielen Alom is a registered trademark, it will be used throughout this English version of the website.