Teresa Driver puts a piece of paper honoring loved ones into the urn during the 30th All Souls Procession in Tucson, Ariz. on Nov. 3, 2019.

In a year heavy with grief, we were robbed of a way to communally express it when the All Souls Procession, which last year drew more than 100,000 people, was canceled. 

But organizers know what we need, so they have made it virtual.

There will be a ceremony with music, dance and the cathartic burning of the offerings placed in the mausoleum.

“It will be filmed with just the tech crew and a handful of performers in attendance,” said Nadia Hagen, one of the forces behind the annual community event that honors and celebrates the dead. “The ceremony will be live-streamed.”

It’s not quite the same, says former Tucsonan Allegra Frazier. Frazier’s mother, Darin, died in 2015, and every year she joins her family here to walk in memory of her mother. This year, COVID-19 has canceled the annual trip.

The time with her family is “more important than Christmas,” says Frazier, who now lives in Carbondale, Illinois.

“I do think I can support my family and friends remotely, but it’s a change,” she says. “There’s something magical about being there. It’s such an experience to be with 100,000 people who are holding some sorrow with you.”

Hagen knows that, and the organizers are incorporating as many of the traditions of the ceremony as possible into the virtual event.

The mausoleum now sits in front of the MSA Annex so that people can go there to submit their offerings. On a screen behind it, photos of loved ones submitted through the Ancestor’s Project slowly stream by.

Those photos will be part of the final ceremony. There will also be “stilt walkers, music and a 200-foot scroll with names submitted by local organizations of people who have died,” says Hagen.

And the burning of the prayers, notes, names and other offerings will be, as in the past, the climax of the event.

“When the urn is burning, that moment is so magical,” says Hagen. “There’s no other word for it. It’s very still, it’s the breath of 100,000 people or more. That moment makes it worth it.”

Photos of those who have passed are projected in a slideshow on a screen above the All Souls Procession's ceremonial cremation urn, part of a multimedia exhibition outside the MSA Annex, Tucson, Ariz., Oct. 20, 2020. The urn will be out for deposits of remembrances and mementoes from relatives and friends who lost a loved one everyday, 6-9 p.m. through Nov. 6.

The procession is “different, but almost more potent and powerful and very, very needed,” says artist To-Reé-Neé Wolf, one of the volunteers.

The coming together in the virtual world is as important as an in-person gathering, she says.

“To me, there’s a whole level of grief for what has gone before. We are in the midst of the great unknown around the world. So it feels even more important that we come together with this ritual. It’s a talisman for those at home — that this is still going on. The prayers will still go up.

To-Reé-Neé Wolf, director of urn attendance spirit group, searches for an art pen while working on one of the four figures for the virtual All Souls Procession inside Wolf’s studio in Tucson. The theme for this years All Souls Procession is “Nature: Healer, Grounder and Disrupter,” which is shown through these figures using flowers, plants and butterflies.

How to participate in the 2020 All Souls Procession

All Souls Mausoleum

Visit the All Souls Mausoleum and leave a message, prayer or remembrance in the urn for a loved one and view photographs submitted by the community on the big outdoor screens. The urn will be burned during the finale on Sunday. 

When: Open nightly from 6-10 p.m. through Saturday, Nov. 7. 

Where: The mausoleum is set up north of the MSA Annex, 267 Avenida Del Convento. 

Procession of Little Angels

While the Procession of Little Angels honoring the memory of children who have passed will not be happening, you can view a special video presentation of prerecorded stories from children throughout Tucson performed by the Stories that Soar! program on the big screen at the All Souls Mausoleum. Drive up and view from your car in the open lot, or walk up and bring your own seating.

When: Saturday, Nov. 7, 6-8 p.m. 

Where: The mausoleum is set up north of the MSA Annex, 267 Avenida Del Convento. 

All Souls Procession Livestream

Watch a livestream of the All Souls Procession ceremony with music and performance from community members and groups and see the burning of the urn. 

When: Sunday, Nov. 8, 6-8 p.m. 

Where: The link to view the livestream will be posted in advance of event on the All Souls Procession Website. 


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Kathleen Allen has written about the arts in Tucson for more than two decades.