Death anniversary

Death anniversary or as it is sometimes called death day is a tradition existing in several Asian countries like Japan, China, India, Korea and Vietnam. It is celebrated on the day some family member or other important individual died. It is connected with ancestor worship, Buddhism and Hinduism.


Japanese use several names for the death anniversary. They call it meinichi, kishin, kijitsu or kinichi. Meinichi is celebrated by praying, visiting the grave site, and placing items on the household altar.

The menichi is for most sad event. But if one observes this tradition from the linguistic perspective another, brighter dimension can be seen. The word shotsuki actually means a joyous month. To understand the meaning of word menichi let's split it in two – mei (life) and nichi (date).

Jichen or jiri are names for death anniversary in China. Ceremonies of this type have been organized since the time of Shang Dynasty (1600 BC – 1046 BC). Throughout the history they included various sacrifices to the ancestor's spirits.

In India there is a tradition known as Shraddha. Shraddha can even be organized before one's death. There are three basic types of Shraddha - adyashraddha (early funeral rites, abhyudayika or brddhi shraddha (emerging funeral offerings) and sapindikarana (annual funeral rites).

Sons of the deceased shave their head on the day before shraddha and observe various rituals. On the day of shraddha there is feast for cousins and friends. Clothes and other objects are donated to Brahmins and cousins. Before the wedding some people organize brddhi shraddha to seek blessing from the ancestors.

Korea is a good example of country where there are death anniversaries for Confucian scholars and famous Korean kings. These services are called Munmyo jerye and Jongmyo jerye. Death of a family member is remembered during service called Gije. For Gije it is a custom to prepare traditional dishes like tteok, jeok, jeon etc. Everything is presented on a jesasang or „death anniversary table“.

Jesasang or death anniversary table

Gio is the name for death anniversary in Vietnam. Family members spend whole day preparing food in honour of the dead person. For the same purpose sticks of incense are burned too.

Public gio services for important historical personalities are organized as well. The biggest are those for Hung Kings – the founders of ancient Vietnamese kingdom and the Trung Sisters. All kind of food is prepared honouring the deceased person like for example dishes she or he used to enjoy, chicken, banh (small stuffed glutinous rice flour balls wrapped in leaves) etc.