Salute to the Living and the Dead
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Salute to the Living and the Dead
Courtesy of History.com
“Boo! Did I scare you?:)”
When shops start decorating their windows with strings of bats and pumpkin jars is precisely the time that Halloween starts looming its spooky shadow over the excited minds of people. This annual holiday hordes a lot of anticipation; children gloat at the notion of trick-or-treating late into the night and some adults enjoy this holiday by partying at costume festivals or visiting amusement parks that thoroughly exhibit vibes of horror. Some others celebrate Halloween in their own ways by gathering with their friends or families, telling ghost stories that chill a person to the bone.
This is generally the image of Halloween that most people paint in their mind. It can also be seen more as how people in the United States would celebrate this holiday. However, Halloween is, in fact, a more universal and global holiday than anyone can imagine. Its origin is not the U.S. and many other countries all over the world have harbored their own Halloween stories with different names .
Then, let’s take a peek at the different stories of Halloween all around the world, shall we?
Courtesy of Wikipedia.org
Samhain, the Halloween of the Celts, is where modern Halloween originated from. Lasting from the evening of October 31st to the evening of November 1st, this is a holiday that marks the end of the harvest season and the commencement of the “darker half” of the year, late fall and winter. This is also the time of the year when the doors to the “Otherworld” opens, letting the souls of the dead and supernatural beings such as faeries and monsters cross over to this world.
Modern Samhain is celebrated with bonfires that are built to repel the evil forces of the Otherworld, just like how the sun drives away the darkness of the night. History tells that a group of young boys used to play around these large fires, lying on the ground dangerously close to the flames while the other boys would run around in the smoke. Feasts are also held in the honors of the memorable dead, and Irish bread and pastries are left outdoors as an offering to the wandering spirits for their sustenance.
Many interesting legends about Samhain exist, one of which tells the tale of how a monster from the Otherworld called by the name “Aillen” visited the human world each year at Samhain and wreak havoc with his ability to breathe fire. Every year, the High King of Ireland would host a magnificent gathering which was put to a halt when Aillen would put everyone to sleep by singing and playing a beautiful melody on his magic harp. He would then proceed to burn everything in his path with his fiery breath. This disaster continued annually until the young hero “Fionn” managed to stay awake by inflicting pain on himself with his enchanted spear. Fionn then slew Aillen with the very same spear, thus putting an end to the catastrophe of flames that occurred every year.
Courtesy of Pixar
Día de los Muertos (Mexico)
More commonly known as the “Day of the Dead,” Día de los Muertos is the Mexican Halloween. Unlike the North American Halloween, which is closely associated with the horror of death, Día de los Muertos is a colorful festival of life when people remember their loved ones by visiting their graves in a brightly lit cemetery.
Just like Samhain, Día de los Muertos is also believed as a time of the year where the borders between the World of the Living and the World of the Dead are almost dissolved. This allows the souls of the deceased to visit their families in the World of the Living. Mexicans view death as a natural phenomenon, a part of the journey one must take on at some point in their life. They also consider death to be a new beginning where souls can move on to the next stage in the cycle of life through death. “Day of the Dead” is a special time when those who have passed on are awake to celebrate the meaning of life and death with those who are still alive through one night of merriment a year.
A key aspect of Día de los Muertos is the altars that are built at homes or in cemeteries. These altars, called ofrendas, are themed around the four elements of water, fire, wind, and earth. Pitchers of water are left out for spirits to quench their thirst after their journey from the Land of the Dead. Candles, which represent fire, are lit in the four cardinal directions to guide the spirits. Paper banners are strung up to represent the wind. The element earth is represented by food. Some families place the favorite food of their deceased on the ofrenda along with loaves of traditional pan de muertos, bread of the dead. Marigolds, which are called flor de muerto (flowers of the dead), are also placed on ofrendas to guide the souls of the dead to their desired destinations.
Thanks to the animation movie Coco (2017), Día de los Muertos is now more known to the public than it was ever before. The adventures that Miguel leads through the Land of the Dead illuminates that “Day of the Dead” is one of the most exciting days of the year in Mexico, both for the living and for the dead.
Courtesy of bookofdaystales.com
Also referred to as Hallowtide or Hallowsmas Season, Allhallowtide lasts from October 31st to November 1st every year and serves as a period of remembrance where Christian martyrs, saints, and the dead are remembered through the attendance of mass and visiting of graves. The true purpose of this period lies in praying for the dead and especially for those whose souls are thought to be trapped in purgatory before they ascend to heaven.
The first day of Allhallowtide is “All Hallow’s Eve,” also known as Halloween. This is the day when the spirits of the dead begin to visit the Land of the Living. In some parts of Europe, masks were worn on this day to prevent certain souls from recognizing the living and inflicting harm. The modern tradition of trick-or-treating is said to have its roots in this practice.
The next day is All Saints’ Day wherein people commemorate the saints who do not yet have an official feast day. This is also a day when Christians visit the final resting spots of their deceased loved ones to place flowers and wreaths on their graves.
England’s old tradition for All Souls Day, the final day of Allhallowtide, involved children and the poor venturing from door to door, as they sang prayers for the deceased.