For us modern Americans Halloween signifies the beginning of the holiday season. This is perhaps mostly to blame on the stores that have been pushing candy down our throats long before Labor Day (http://bit.ly/2dCtItg) and target consumers with Christmas lights before Daylight Savings Time. It is a model we have come to except despite the oppression it springs upon us.
For those of us without children we are free from the pressures and expenses of Halloween unless you have better friends than mine who are having cool parties. Instead it grants us the excuse to buy candy “just in case” we have trick-or-treaters who we then can ignore if we had eaten it all ahead of time. There really is no better way, unless you happen to be from Marietta, Georgia. Those people really know how to celebrate Halloween.
After Halloween I don’t think about another holiday until Election Day (http://bit.ly/2fjr3nN), especially this year. But the next major holiday is of course Thanksgiving (http://bit.ly/2fm0Pza). I don’t like Veterans Day (http://bit.ly/2eEnNS4), which is in between, to get lost in the shuffle. I feel all of November’s holidays are important in their own right. I love the idea of being thankful for your blessings as the lead into the major holiday season.
Growing up in a primarily Italian, Catholic family I grew up knowing that the day after Halloween was All Saints Day. I also knew and hated that my cousins who went to catholic school had off that day. I only had Brooklyn Day (http://bit.ly/2f5NLyL) over them at that point.
All Saints Day is exactly what it sounds like. It is a day of worship for the saints who are in heaven, officially those who have been deemed worthy by the church. Besides Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, and Protestants may also celebrate this religious holiday.
The next day is All Souls Day a day of prayers for those who have died this year and technically not reached heaven yet. I was never aware of that final technicality but so say the church so it must be true. This is not a day of obligation unlike the day before. For some cultures there is no distinction between the day’s messages. Obligation according to the Catholic Church means that mass must be attended. Apparently there is only one way, for them, to properly pay tribute. But I rather disagree.
Getty Images via CN Traveler
Ever since I learned about a similar holiday, in proximity and relation, I have been interested in it. La Dia De Los Muertos, a.k.a. The Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday that has spread out across countries to other nations. It is often celebrated from October 31st through November 2nd, combining our Halloween, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day into one festival.
While participants in most countries simply bring flowers to their loved ones graves. However in Portugal they take things one-step further and go door to door, I assume throughout their village/town, to receive cakes and nuts. In the Philippines they also take the time to repair, repaint, and maintain the gravesites.
The first time I read about The Day of the Dead, was in Anderson Cooper’s first book, Dispatches from the Edge. In it, he tells the story of how he became a passionate reporter that seeks out the hardest, most dangerous locations to tell the stories no one else can.
"It takes place every year on Halloween, the day when the souls of the dead are said to return for a few hours to the world of the living. On the night of October 31, Oaxaca's cemeteries fill with people who've come to welcome back their lost loved ones. They place candles around the graves and bring offerings of food and drink to help the dead sample the material world they've left behind. Oaxacans believe that the souls of infants come back first, and at their graves there is only sadness. At the older people's graves, however, there is drinking and laughter. Funny tales about moments they shared."
This section is towards the end of this book and is particularly touching after reading about the tragedies Anderson has lived through in his personal life and witnessed during his professional career. This tradition seems full of light in spite of the sadness and dread when a loved one dies.
Travel and Leisure Magazine recently shared:
“At home, families create altars and honor the dead with sweetbreads, the deceased’s favorite food, marigolds (the flower of death), fresh water, trinkets and sugar skulls—which are inscribed with the name of a deceased relative and eaten as a reminder of death being a sweet continuation of the cycle of life.”
There is a time for laugher and a time for tears. It all blends together. These ritualistic holidays have made both Anderson and I have come to realize that there is more than one way to honor those who have passed on. As the new television show of the same name said, “This Is Us.”
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