03 November 2015

Halloween: the Colorful and the Contemplative

Halloween - 2015
Halloween is a little bit of a high holiday around here. I have been really getting into it since we moved to Brookside and since the girls have gotten old enough to love it. This year's preparations have been underway for a while.

Honey offered to make the Halloween costumes for the girls (certainly not the only time recently that my mom has brought Halloween to life) - a rainbow fairy, sometimes called Brite Rainbow, for Julia and "Clara Caterpillar" for Clara (from the book by the same name). The costumes were superb and I could tell that the girls felt like a million bucks as they embodied their alter egos. "I'm a cabbage caterpillar!" Clara declared many times with a winning grin (a frightening costume for all my farmers, I'm sure). And Julia with her rainbow fairy wand, abracadabra-ing everyone and everything. Because rainbows give you powers. Obviously.

We carved our pumpkins weeks ago; they had long since been consumed by decay and squirrels by the time the actual day arrived. But we've been decorating the house in other ways since early October. Ghosts in the trees and skulls on the mantel. We are slowly building a collection.

pumpkin carving
We're also talking a lot about Samhain these days, not just Halloween. Samhain (pronounced "sah-win") is a Gaelic festival (October 31 - November 1) that celebrates the changing of the seasons. Many of our modern Halloween traditions are rooted in Samhain traditions (for example, pumpkin carving came from making lanterns out of turnips with faces carved in them). Samhain also focuses on gratitude for the cycles of life, death, and rebirth.

altar or memorial

Sergio's recent interfaith work (and his familiarity with Day of the Dead traditions) spurred him on to create what in Mexican, Catholic, or Pagan tradition would be called an altar. You might also call it a memorial. This year felt like the right time to bring this element into the mix. Not only have we lost several close family members in the last year, but the girls are old enough to know about these losses and are certainly old enough to talk about them.

Having pictures of our loved ones out for us all to see was a wonderful reminder. And the beautiful white display that Sergio created was a striking spot of clarity and calm that encouraged a pause and a moment of contemplation. Halloween goes hand in hand with All Saints' Day (November 1 on the liturgical calendar in the Episcopal church - a day to recognize those who have gone before). In Day of the Dead tradition (as well as in the Jewish Yarzheit tradition) you light a candle as the spirit of your departed loved ones returns for just a moment. As we discussed each photo with the girls, we brought everyone back if only for just a moment. 

Halloween day arrived and we had way too much to do, far too little time, a major distraction threatening to spoil everything, and a hell-bent determination on our parts to have a fun Halloween party despite it all. Miraculously we pulled through. Friends and family gathered and we joined the entourage of little ghosts and ghouls and Annas and Elsas all traipsing up and down the sidewalks of Morningside. We came back home and put Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin on for the kids, and we ate chili, taking turns handing out candy at the front door.

There's nothing like a Halloween party to infuse your life with delight and to entice you to be like your children who don't have to try very hard to be happy. After the revelers had all gone home (or fallen asleep on the floor next to a pile of legos), I began cleaning up and discovered a drawing that Julia had made in the early morning when Sergio and I were far too preoccupied with worry and concern to have a clue what she was doing. It is a drawing of a rainbow (not surprising these days; she does a lot of those) but this one came with a caption. Some days we don't have to try very hard to be happy. But there are other days when we need all the rainbows we can get.

1 comment:

The Monkey said...

What great Halloween memories and traditions you are creating for what I am sure will carry on for generations to come.

Julia's a mastermind, we need every rainbow in this world.