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Turama: A time to remember and honour departed loved ones

Wednesday 1 November 2023 | Written by Melina Etches | Published in Local, National


Turama: A time to remember and honour departed loved ones
Nelson Akava and Dr Neti Tamarua-Herman clean their respective family graves at the Panama Cemetery in preparation for the annual Turama or All Saints Day today. MELINA ETCHES/23103116

Today marks Turama or All Souls Day, a significant occasion in the Cook Islands where families commemorate their departed loved ones by decorating their graves with fragrant flowers, candles, and lights to remember and honour those who have passed on.

This tradition holds great importance, and each year more people in Rarotonga participate in Turama, adorning family graves with colourful flower decorations unique to the island.

Dr Neti Tamarua-Herman and Nelson Akava were cleaning and hosing down their respective family graves at the Catholic Panama Cemetery yesterday.

Tamarua-Herman shared that her paternal grandparents from Manihiki rest in this cemetery. She holds cherished memories of her grandfather, who travelled to Aitutaki to fetch her when she was studying there and brought her back to Rarotonga.

Recalling his kindness, she expressed gratitude, saying, “He was such a nice man coming to get us because we had no family in Aitutaki.”

Tamarua-Herman is also decorating her mother and maternal grandfathers’ grave at the veterans’ Nikao Cemetery opposite the airport.

The All Saints’ Day starts at sundown on October 31 and lasts until November 1. This occasion is for those who are in Heaven – “they have completed the journey” – and are named Saints, including the faithful who have died holy deaths.

In the Catholic tradition, All Souls Day starts at sundown on November 1 and lasts until November 2. During this time, the Catholic faith conducts commemoration services for the dead.

Bishop Paul Donoghue earlier explained that in the Catholic community, All Souls Day is when “we believe and pray for our loved ones who have passed on and who may be still on the journey to heaven, who still need our help”.

“These are our loved ones, and it is important we don’t forget them and that we can still be of assistance to them.”

This evening, the Catholic Diocese of Rarotonga has scheduled a mass dedicated to the deceased, followed by visits to the graves of both Catholic and non-Catholic individuals across different districts.

Rarotonga’s Catholic Diocese Turama programme is as follows: St Paul’s Parish Titikaveka at 4:30pm, St Mary’s Parish Arorangi at 5pm, St Joseph’s Cathedral Avarua 6pm Mass at the Panama Cemetery and Sacred Heart Parish Matavera at 7pm.