Obon: The Ancestors Are Coming To Visit For A Few Days

I recently discovered something that I didn’t know.  I discovered that my city of St. Paul, Minnesota, USA, and the city of Nagasaki, Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan, are sister cities.  There has been some form of communication between the two cities since 1955.  Another one of these sister city activities took place yesterday, the Japanese Lantern Lighting Festival

I’ve read that the Obon (お盆) festival has just ended in Japan.  It has been practiced in Japan for the past 500 years.  While it has its roots in Buddhism, other belief systems have contributed to the practice.  The idea is that the spirits of our ancestors come to visit us for three days.  Various things are done to honor the presence of the ancestors (offerings of food, ceremonial dances), and on the third day, floating lanterns are lit to guide the ancestors back to the world of the dead.

Anything that’s been done for 500 years works for somebody.  I was adopted at birth, and I don’t know my biological parents, or any of their family.  But they are all there, to greater or lesser degrees, in the form of my DNA.  Everyone’s ancestors were winners in passing on their genes, so maybe there’s something to this contemplation of the ancestors.

No one was killed during this festival in St. Paul, Minnesota.

I’m sure there are people reading this who reject the very premise of the Obon festival. It is my observation that just about everybody believes at least one thing that someone else, somewhere not only does not believe, but believes to be ridiculous.  I consider this a corollary of Step 5 of Steps to Knowledge, “I believe what I want to believe.”

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