The Death Issue

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Calavera Las Bicicletas, by the Mexican artists José Guadalupe Posada

It’s the time of year to honour the dead, usually by wearing outrageous costumes and eating too much candy. While we at the Ethnic Aisle love a good party where you can’t tell who anyone is, this year we thought we’d take All Hallow’s Eve and Día de Muertos a little more literally.

Here are some personal reflections by Torontonians of various cultures on death, dying and remembering both here, and abroad. They’re about ancestors, and decisions, and grief – and also about love, and how we choose to live.

In A Way of Death, Heather Li describes why her annual visit to her family graves is actually kind of fun.

Rawiya Kameir explains the Sudanese ritual of beit el-bikka for In the House of Crying, a dramatic display of grief that first annoyed, then comforted, her.

Perhaps it happens in many cultures, but Helen Mo has only seen Asian and South Asian families hide death and illness from older relatives. “With one act, it’s possible to both love and disrespect,” she writes in Don’t Tell Grandma.

In God Lives in India, Vivek Shraya writes about love, faith, disillusionment, and the death of his personal God, the multifaith guru Sai Baba.

After 40 years in Toronto, Septembre Anderson’s relatives still grieve using Trinidadian mourning rituals. She talks about the death of her uncle in Nine Nights and Forty Days. 

For many Torontonians, deaths of relatives we loved–or hardly knew–happen on different continents.

Adwoa Afful reflects on the passing of her grandmother and great-grandmother in On Death and Mourning From a Distance. 

While Pacinthe Mattar talks about how “shame and guilt move through my veins” when she missed the funerals of her grandmothers and uncles in Death Struck Where I Was Born, But Never Lived.

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The Wedding Issue

funny sexy african american bride & groom caketopper medHow many weddings are YOU going to this summer? And how many have that special Toronto flavour? You know, the bride and bride or groom and groom or – heck! – bride and groom are completely different shades of human. The ceremony integrates multiple traditions: the couple bows Korean-style to honour their parents underneath a Jewish chuppah, then tucks into an Italian feast at the reception as a West Indian steel band taps out a tune. Half the guests give presents wrapped in fancy paper, the other half stuff fat envelopes into the provided box, and both halves consider the other a bit strange.

This week, we’re talking Weddings on the Ethnic Aisle. From what outfit to wear, to who to invite, to what do to about all of the parents’ demands and requests, for plenty of us its all got a cultural flava.

First up, Kelli Korducki isn’t quite sure what all of the fuss is about. “There are plenty of reasons for committed, long-term partners not to marry, and they needn’t even involve questions of “right one” -ness. Many—maybe most—involve the wedding itself.”

Then, Denise Balkissoon speaks with a bunch of brides who wore two dresses at their ceremony: an outfit that spoke to their ethnic traditions, as well as the Big White Dress.

Lucas Costello reflects on his own brief but quixotic marriage–and how pissed his overseas relatives were that he told them about it via e-vite.

Bhairavi Thanki discusses why she isn’t going to have any of her family’s Indian traditions in her own wedding, no how, no way.

Jaime Woo wishes Western weddings would adopt the Chinese custom of including games during the reception (and he’s got a few ideas of what they could be).

New contributor Helen Mo on why hipsters love an ethnic wedding.

and Simon Yau on why he sort of wanted his wife to change her last name from “Cheng” to “Yau,” and why “Chau” or “Yeng” just won’t work.

Keep checking back, we’ll be adding more all week. And feel free to share your most Toronto wedding stories in the comments.