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Bone voyage Spending All Souls’ Day with 25,000 skulls

In late October and early November the dead seem to return and mingle among the living around Switzerland. For the more adventurous, it’s a chance to visit the ossuaries of Valais. 

In the Catholic parts of the country the dead are traditionally honoured on November 2, All Souls’ Day. This is often confused with All Saints’ Day on November 1, during which the Catholic Church honours all its saints. 

Whatever their reason, many Swiss people visit cemeteries at this time of year to pay their respects to their loved ones, even though this tradition is becoming less popular. The graves are covered in flowers, usually chrysanthemums. 

It is perhaps in the German-speaking part of canton Valais that the presence of the dead is the most noticeable. The region is home to 20 or so ossuaries, rooms in which the bones of the dead are placed. One of the most impressiveexternal link is the charnel house at Leuk, where no fewer than 25,000 skulls have been carefully stacked. 

But other imported customs are also followed. The most famous is Halloween, but although it was very fashionable in the early 2000s, this Anglo-Saxon tradition has struggled to take root. A little less known, the Mexican Day of the Dead is also sometimes celebrated.

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