darkness has arrived. halloween has been celebrated with all of its ghostly and ghoulishly fun. all saint’s day, the day we remember + celebrate the dead, has passed as well. and for us in the states, we have changed to winter time (no more daylight savings time), so the sun set today so very early. darkness has literally arrived. and it feels heavy, yet cozy.
you know, this all hallows time (halloween and hallows/saints day) was actually a festival time back in the day. the celtic festival, known as samhain, celebrated the dead halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice. it was a time when winter preparations began for farmers, bringing their livestock in from the pastures. fires were lit, offerings of food and drink were left to the gods, asking for survival through the winter, and feasts were had, inviting the souls of the dead to draw near. people even dressed in costumes, going from door to door, reciting verses in exchange for food to be used at the feast. it was seen as a day that the spirit world was closer to the living world, thus the invitation for the souls of those who have gone before to come and feast with the living.
in my opinion, there is nothing dark and demon-y about this. it is simply recognizing the cycle of life, as seen in nature + in our own lives. november is a month that feels like the very end of life. it feels like death. it even looks like death in the northern hemisphere. just look around and notice what happens to the earth as the month progress. it grows darker, the plants and trees die. animals hibernate. we all move inside.
all saint’s day was introduced by christians in the year 609, but was originally celebrated on may 13. a few hundred years later it was officially switched to november 1, influenced by and merging with the celtic samhain holiday. offerings of prayers, flowers, candles, and even food are made in some countries. in sweden family members visit the graves of loved ones, taking candles and gifts to lay by the tombstones. when i lived there, i remember how silently beautiful it was. it was an overwhelming feeling of reverence – and i felt that the souls were closer to us. but, perhaps it was just me, being aware of them – that the souls are nearby all the time, but we never stop to really reflect on their presence.
in the christian church in the states the only thing that is done is that a list of names of all of those who have died in the past year is read in the middle of the service. touching and sweet, but i definitely prefer the swedish way of actively being involved in remembering and giving thanks.
with that in mind, lina and i celebrated in our own way at home for all saint’s days/samhain. we lit a single candle and let it burn all day long, in remembrance of our loved ones. then, we picked up paige and headed to a historical cemetery in asheville. it was snowy, cold, misty, and windy. the air was damp and raw, but we walked a bit, lighting tea lights and leaving them on the grave of thomas wolfe, a famous american author from asheville who is buried there. it was our way of mingling with and showing respect for the souls of those who have gone before – and it reminded me of my one precious life that i have…
i know it sounds depressing, but it is simply a reminder of who we are. a reminder that life is short and fleeting, and that we miss the people who have already left this world.
but, my friends, i truly believe that we must reflect on these things to help us gain perspective, to inspire us, and to ultimately transform us. it may be tough, but i believe that taking the time to ponder these things, together + alone, make us better people. it helps us to embrace the life that we have and live in the present moment.
so, whether you call it samhain or all saint’s day, the hallows festival is a beautiful time to dress up and enjoy the fun + craziness of halloween, while knowing that the tradition came from a festival of respecting death – both of the season of summer, and of the death of people we have loved. it is also a beautiful time take a slow, deep breath and light a candle. a time to be inspired to hold on + move forward. to grab on to the life that pulses through our veins and the breath that sustains us, inspiring us to make something of the life that we have been given.