As I get older, I contemplate each and every holiday and to what extent it means something to me. I am the kind of person that needs to make sense of things in order to find the ritual or practices useful. I was born into a family of many religions and traditions, extended family scattered across the world, practicing different rituals based on their cultural context. I can honestly say that no single religion or culture is one I can fully relate to and call it my own. Having the basic understanding that all traditions have similar basic meanings and morals as a compass for human existence, I have rather cultivated a practice of learning the historical origins of festivals, rituals and their purpose. As I tread through life and gain insight into my human psyche, while living the experience that human life has to offer, I increasingly seem to understand the meaning behind holidays and their practices.
I grew up in central Europe. Halloween wasn't a thing. We knew the holiday from American movies. Only as a mother living in the UK, did I start to join in the festivities. The children love dressing up and needless to say that collecting masses of sweets is not something they want to miss out on. The elaborate decorations of certain London neighbourhoods brought about a celebration of the mystical. It was plain and simple, fun!
Why celebrate Halloween?
With my own curious nature and as an educator, my children and I learned about how 'All Hallows Eve' came about and I soon realised that it bore similarities with central European holidays of the same season: connecting with the world of the dead and honouring the spirits of the departed. Turns out there are many cultures who have their own versions of doing just this.
My next question was why we need to do that at all? Why is it important for our human life to connect with our ancestors? We are told to remember them, to honour them. What if I have no memory of any of my ancestors? What if they have died before I was born? What if I am adopted and I don't know anything about my ancestral lineage?
It seems that memory alone is not the answer. I decided that I would direct my consciousness and deep inner self towards the spirits of my ancestors. I would imagine them individually as living humanlings on this earth. The quiet observance of this practice is quite mind blowing. The sensations arising within the body give me an indication that part of my ancestors still live within me. I experience waves of tears, excitement and rage. I've been through the bank of emotions that made no sense to me rationally. As if some of their emotions lived on in me, influencing my life.
Why the 31st of October?
I think, the choice of this time has to do with the cycles of nature. We are part of nature and our ancestors, having been in close touch with the natural world, would have chosen accordingly. Right now we are in the middle of autumn. A time in which the natural world is shedding the wilting leaves and descending into a kind of 'death-like' state. We grow quieter physically, we are less active, we retreat into the warmth of our homes. Spiritually, we have time to contemplate and reflect and feel the depths of our souls. Instinctively, this would seem to be the perfect time to give our ancestral heritage a little attention wouldn't it? Observing this exact date is clearly not important but a useful guideline for us to remember. We are all very busy with our lives and it is clear to me that the purpose of cultural and religious festivals is to pull us out of our routine and draw our attention to things, vitally important to our spirits. Things, that we may otherwise forget to nurture.
We Are Luminous
With this understanding I leave you to choose if this, or any other holiday, for that matter means something to you. The beauty of our day and age is, that we are not forced to do anything. We are free to learn and decide for ourselves if and how we want to observe certain traditions (at least many of us are). The downside is that we may have lost the guidance of our tribes and traditions, and therefore can get to a point of spiritual starvation: a sensation many feel, but are unaware that this is what they are experiencing.
I encourage everyone to reexamine existing traditions at their core and see how they can make sense to the individual. Some practices may be irrelevant and in others the individual may find meaning or come up with new and unique ways of achieving the desired purpose.
Spirituality isn't old fashioned or dead. It is ever evolving and in my view, we are in a time of new spiritual awakening. An exciting and awe inspiring time to be alive!
"Luminous Beings Are We, Not This Crude Matter" - Yoda