no pumpkins, just candles
We don’t have Halloween* here. That is, we do, but only in the same sense that we have Coke and techno music – everyone loves them, and could celebrate their existence all year long, but they’re not exactly integral to our culture.
What we do have (November 1st) is All Souls Day. That’s when people take the time to visit their deceased relatives at the cemetery and spend a little time taking care of the graves and reminiscing. It’s a national holiday, of course. Or, well, a national day off (an ever-awkward linguistic problem, as is ‘celebrate’).
During the previous weeks, all kinds of memorial candles go on sale, as people hurry to stock up and prepare. ‘I’m going to the graves,’ they tell each other – that’s a colloquial way of saying ‘cemetery’. Young people, too: even if it’s Hallo-techno-Coke-party the night before, the morning is dedicated to All Souls.
It’s a remarkably peaceful day. Sometimes it’s peaceful enough to forget all about it (especially if one is Jewish and inconsiderate *cough*me*cough*) and call someone. It’s always so strange to get the quiet response: ‘Hi, I’m visiting the graves right now, I’ll call you back.’ It gives me an acute feeling of reality.
I think it is very important to have what ultimately amounts to National Memory Day. All the more so because we tend to forget things most of the other days. Even if I don’t fully share this day with my compatriots, I still feel and appreciate its spirit. There should always be a time and place set aside for memories.
There are several people I’ll be thinking about tomorrow.
*Note how this word craftily links to two posts at once. These are two of my daily reads, writing about their Halloween this year.