TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - As the All Souls Procession stepped off on its walk through the Tucson neighborhoods toward Mercado San Agustin on Sunday, Nov. 5, everyone had their own reason for participating.
For some, they wanted to honor a loved one lost.
"He passed away of a heart attack in our home," said the wife of Paul Kirkendall, who died in July. She carried his picture on a poster through the crowd.
Others celebrated the life of a friend who had passed on.
But for some participants, it was an opportunity to honor someone they never knew. They held lanterns, symbolizing someone's hopes, offerings, and wishes for those who have died recently.
They were pieces of paper constructed together, simply handed out to people in the crowd, by volunteers like Angela Horchem.
"The idea is that a stranger carries someone else's lantern through the procession," Horchem said.
The procession is now in its 28th year.
"The procession had its beginnings in Tucson, Arizona in 1990 with a ceremonial performance piece created by local artist Susan Johnson. Johnson was grieving the passing of her father, and as an artist, she found solace in a creative, celebratory approach to memorializing him," according to the All Souls Procession website.
Now, in 2017, tens of thousands of people participated in the 2-mile walk that ended with the ceremonial burning of a large urn high above Mercado San Agustin.
As for the lanterns, there were no strings attached. The people who agreed to accept them were simply asked to carry it on the journey, and place it in the urn at the end.
"I think a lot of times, in our culture, we hold grief in and we don't really do much with it. We're expected just to move on. But this is like taking my grief, turning it into a celebration of someone, and then sharing it with a stranger, completely," Horchem said.
And those strangers, like Seandean Anderson of Marana, wanted to help in any way she could.
"I feel like, when you go through grief you need people to help you along with it. In a way, knowing that it was someone else's pain - maybe not my own - I actually want to help out," she said. "That almost was the reason why I said yes, 'I'll take the lantern down this trail that I'm not necessarily familiar with.' Helping someone out sounded great to me."