Interestingly, it is also celebrated by Mexicans as The Day of the Dead. Two different cultures, half a world apart, yet at the heart of the holiday is exactly the same sentiment. The Longmont Museum features a special exhibit every year at this time, when people create altars in honor of those who died this year. There are also related exhibits that explain the aspects of the holiday. For example, they always decorate with marigolds and burn copal, a strong, pleasant incense that is a tree resin, like frankincense or myrrh. In both traditions, a place is set at the table with the person's favorite food and things they enjoyed while alive are displayed, such as if they liked playing cards or guitar, reading novels, or other things that they liked. In both cultures telling stories about that person and offering them one last meal and visit before wishing them well on their journey into the next world. The marigolds and copal are to help guide the spirits on their journeys, road markers for the place in between here and there.
There is another holiday specifically for remembering those killed in war, but this one is a time to say farewell to anyone we know who died this year. We speak our appreciation for those who we remember and acknowledge that part of the cycle of life, the ending of this physical reality as we know it.Halloween is a time when kids go trick or treating, wearing masks and costumes. It is a time when adults go to parties dressed as characters they wish they were or want to be.
It is fun watching all the little kids in their costumes continuing the tradition, even though they do not know yet the roots of the traditions they follow, that of the soul cakes and the dumb supper. They celebrate the harvest of candy, and it is a great holiday for kids as a fun time to dress up and get treats from their neighbors. In earlier times, the soul cakes were the precursors to the trick or treat tradition. It actually has a very similar root to the tradition of Christmas caroling. In a Celtic town, people would go from house to house and say prayers for those who had passed. In appreciation then, the host or hostess would offer these sweet cakes to thank them for coming by and praying. The Mexican tradition also includes sweet breads and cookies in the shapes of skulls which are treats when people gather to honor their dead.
Falling leaves signal the shift in seasons with more certainty every day, as less leaves are on the branches and more on the ground. We celebrate all that we have harvested this year as well, and we have some food on our shelves for the winter and we work and look toward the future, pulling a card for the year.
Spirits always dance on this fall holiday, and we dance with them.
On this fabulous festive occasion, you can see how it feels to reinvent yourself.