Honoring The Dead at Halloween (maybe even with a chocolate bar!)
Are you ready for Halloween? In Canada and the US, we celebrate the occasion with costumes and candy, haunted houses and scary movies. You might be wondering what is has to do with mourning or remembrance-it’s a silly fun holiday for kids. But it isn’t celebrated in the same way everywhere. The word Halloween comes from a contraction of All Hallows’ Eve, and in many cultures the focus is on honouring people who have died.
Hallows is an archaic name for saints, and the day following All Hallows’ Eve is All Saints Day. The day is reserved in some Christian denominations to remember those who have died, with church services and with special prayers of remembrance. Although it is sombre, it is a comforting time to share your grief with those who have also experienced loss. Like I said, not too much to do with pillowcases full of candy!
Many countries and cultures have holidays and festivals to commemorate family and friends who have died. In the Philippines, families gather for Undas, travelling home to celebrate together. They visit the graves of family members to clean and repaint the tomb or mausoleum, eat together, and light candles and pray. In Sweden, most shops and businesses are closed on All Saints’ Day, and people spend time with their families. Candles are lit and placed on gravestones of loved ones, and many churches will have services and host concerts. The Day of the Dead festivals in some parts of Mexico are probably the best known. Sugar skulls ornately decorated skeleton figurines, and bright yellow marigolds are part of the colourful celebrations, where special meals are eaten with family, graves are visited, and altars are constructed with offerings of things that were meaningful to the person who died.
If your culture doesn’t already have a day of remembrance for loved ones lost, you may want to adopt some of these customs for yourself. After the rush of trick or treating, you may feel up to taking a similar approach to mourning for the day on the first of November. You could ask a friend or family member to join you while you light a candle or visit the grave of your loved one. You could invite people to share a fond memory of your loved one, play their favourite music, or eat a meal of food they loved—or their favourite fun-sized Halloween candy.
Take Time – Acknowledge Your Loss – Grieve Together