Looking back, this year feels like it’s lasted for eons. But from a different perspective, it also seems to have flown by. Do you know what I mean? Does it seem possible that the little ones, at least in some areas, will be trick-or-treating next weekend? I find it hard to believe.
There have been times that I haven’t celebrated the autumn and winter holidays. For years, I was hung up on the over-commercialization and materialism of it all, and therefore, I had no desire to take part. But one of the things covid has taught me is that time with friends and family should not be taken for granted. Traditions should be celebrated and relationships should be cherished.
According to Frank Sonnenberg, an award-winning author who was recently named one of America’s Top 100 Thought Leaders, Traditions represent a critical piece of our culture. They help form the structure and foundation of our families and our society. They remind us that we are part of a history that defines our past, shapes who we are today and who we are likely to become. He goes on to say that traditions reinforce values such as selflessness and responsibility, provide a sense of belonging, and give us an opportunity for reflection while making memories with loved ones.
The American Halloween tradition originated with our Celtic ancestors about 2000 years ago. Their new year began on November 1, and they believed the ghosts of the dead returned to earth the night before. To commemorate, the Celts built sacred bonfires, wore costumes, and engaged in fortune-telling. Over the centuries, the Roman Empire and the Catholic Church both played roles in changing some of the meaning and customs of the celebration. In the US, due in part to religious beliefs, Halloween did not become popular nationally until late in the 19th century, when millions of Irish migrated to this country to flee the potato famine.
Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is an annual holiday celebrated on November 1 & 2 by those of Mexican heritage. (It is, however, gaining popularity in this country, as I’ve taken part in its celebration in 3 states over the years.) I’ve read there is no crossover between Dia de los Muertos and Halloween, but there are many similarities. In the Mexican holiday, it is believed that spirits of the dead are allowed to return to their homes for 24 hours, and it is celebrated with parades, special foods, costumes, and lovingly designed altars filled with skulls, flowers, and pictures of the deceased. According to the National Hispanic Cultural Center, Dia de los Muertos is a day set aside for families and communities to honor ancestors and loved ones, while celebrating the cycle of life.
Ah, yes, the cycle of life. Like every living thing on Earth, we have a life cycle. Each stage in the human life cycle presents specific challenges for experiencing, learning, and loving, in preparation for the next stage. This ties in with Sonnenberg’s statement, (Traditions) remind us that we are part of a history that defines our past, shapes who we are today and who we are likely to become. Traditions are an important part of our life cycles.
Don’t let covid take away your traditions. Make modifications as necessary for safety, ignore the commercialization as best you can, and make happy memories with family and friends. The visiting spirits of your deceased loved ones will appreciate it.
Blessings for Halloween & Dia de los Muertos,
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