What is the Day of the Dead/Fet Gede Celebration?

For 39 years, La Source Ancienne Ounfo – A New Orleans based Vodou society – has celebrated the Day of the Dead/Fet Gede with an annual Vodou ceremony to invoke the Gede. It is soothing and reassuring to know that our Dead are not gone, and that we can come together in community to honor and visit with them. In return, our memory of the Dead keeps their spirits alive and present.

The Mexican Days of the Dead are the days when the veil separating the Living and the Dead is most diffuse and the Dead come back to visit the living – children visit on Oct 31st, the familial adults on November 1st, and the unremembered Dead on November 3rd.  It is the time of year when summer has ended, and Nature is moving towards wintery death.  In Mexico, elaborate displays transform graves into altars and thousands of candles illuminate the path between the worlds and give warmth to the returning Dead. Tables are set up with food for the Dead and families picnic on top of graves all night.

The Haitian Day of the Dead, Fet Gede – the festival of the Sacred Dead, coincides with the Mexican Days of the Dead.  The entire month of November is dedicated to the Gede celebrations in Haiti but is especially honored with ceremonies during the first days of the month. Death transforms from a menacing and fearful reaper, to a “comically grotesque” (Andy Antippas) equalizer. Papa Gede is a psychopomp who stands at the crossroads between life and death with a very crude, often embarrassing, sense of humor and a cunning ability to read people’s minds. He is the patron of death, sex, and regeneration. However, he is also a gentle protector of his people and of children. When there is a life or death situation, he is prayed to, as it is believed that he will not take a life before its time.  His colors are purple, black and white and he is characteristically known for smoking cheap cigars and wearing a top hat and sunglasses – often with only one lens, some say because he sees both worlds and others say it is a reference to his “one-eyed snake!”

At a time in our country where there is an emphasis on fear and intolerance of the other, it is important to experience, share, and de-mystify diverse cultures. This year, on November 1st, 2019, the Day of the Dead/Fet Gede celebration will take place in the lobby of the New Orleans Healing Center.


Check out all that the Day of the Dead/Fet Gede Celebration hosted by the New Orleans Healing Center has to offer:

All night: Experience the New Orleans Healing Centerand the many businesses and organizations that comprise it in a whole new light. Our Grand Hall will be decked for the occasion and will also have some vendors set up for shopping.

  • All night: An array of Altarsfor the Dead by various interfaith artists.
    • Please bring photos of your Dead or remembrances for the main altar for the Dead
  • 7:00 – 10:00 pm: Ceremony by Sallie Ann Glassman with initiated members of La Source Ancienne Ounfo and master drummers.
    • Please wear white with purple head scarves or purple and black (Gede colors) and bring an offering for the Gede or your Ancestors
  • 10:00 – 10:45 pm: Pot luck supper
  • Please bring a dish to share
  • 10:45 – 11:15 pm: Procession to feed the Dead, say the praise names of the Beloved Dead, pass flame and say prayers from numerous traditions for the Dead.

 *Please feel free to bringing offerings. Gede likes: rum, cigars, sunglasses with one lens, top hats, flat breads, skeletons, skulls, peppers, Day of the Dead figurines, crosses, coffins, coffin nails, goat cheese, goat stew, etc.*

Standing behind each of us is a long line of Ancestors who continue to love and guide us.  In honoring the Dead, we embrace the meaning of our own lives and open space for generations yet to come.