My grandchildren have been anticipating Hallowe’en for weeks now – costumes chosen and prepared long ago; skeletons, bats and spiders hanging all over the house and front door; pumpkins carved and ready to shine. The kids can hardly wait for that magical evening, when they can wander the neighbourhood, eager for treats, only slightly worried about tricks.
It’s a fun time for all. (But take note — Hallowe’en has become a money-making bonanza; in the USA, it is estimated that 9.1 billion dollars will be spent on candy, costumes, and decorations – that’s $82.93 per person. I suspect Canadians are not far behind.)
You probably know that Hallowe’en has its roots in the Celtic celebration of Samhain –this is the day that marks the end of summer and the beginning of winter; the day when the “stuff” of the everyday world is stretched, becomes thin; when boundaries blur, and the Spirits of the “other world” are able to enter this world, our lives. Sometimes they come to play tricks, to frighten and haunt us. But sometimes they come with blessings.
It is this latter hope that Christianity has highlighted, naming October 31st as a “hallowed” evening, a time of holiness, which ushers in “All Saints Day” on Nov.1st, and “All Souls Day” on Nov. 2nd. It is a time for us to think about those who have died – particular holy people we name as saints, but also all those dear to us, who have touched our lives in special ways. It is to remember that in so many ways the dead still shape our lives, and their impact on our lives can remain vivid and real.
There is a powerful Latin American tradition of calling forth those who are no longer with us, remembering their love and example. The name of the person to be remembered is shouted out, and then all those gathered… in church, in a home, at a rally… they all cry “Presente!” …. and in some wonderful way, you can almost feel the “presence” of those so named, whether it be a well known “saint” like Nelson Mandela or Mother Teresa, or someone’s mother or teacher, or mentor or lover…. Those who have died aren’t fully gone as long as they are remembered and cherished; the dead are “present” when memory opens the doors of our hearts.
So this Hallowe’en… have fun! Don’t spend too much money! But also, take time, perhaps later in the evening when all the trick-or-treaters are tucked up in bed; or when the party is over and you’re safely home… take time to remember those who have passed who are dear to your heart, and give thanks for their presence in your life… “back then” and right now.