Our Unusual Halloween
This year when decorating our house for the Halloween season, my mom and I thought we might change things up a bit: rather than pulling out our usual fake cobwebs and gaudy little scarecrows mounted on sticks and missing various limbs (my brother and I were in the inconsiderate habit of using them as swords during our play-battles of yore), we instead arranged a small altar of sorts to commemorate our dead relatives. This may at first seem unrelated to the consumer-driven, sugar-centric holiday we know today (like what even is halloween without candy and witches and scarecrows after all?), but it is actually quite fitting. What few people realize is that Halloween is a popularized segment of an ancient tradition, at once both pagan and Christian, of honoring spirits that have passed away. The entirety of this tradition actually consists of three days: All Hallow’s Eve (which represents the spirit’s leaving behind its earthly body, and occurs on October 31); All Saints’ Day (which represents the spirit’s atoning for the injuries it dealt others during its life, and falls on November 1); and All Souls' Day (which represents the spirit’s final departure to an other realm and falls on November 2; today). So, harking back to this age-old trinity of remembrance, we created this motley collection of photographs and memorabilia, a little something apprês the ornate shrines of the Mexican “Day of the Dead,” which also happens to fall during the same three days:
Now for a brief tour of this heap of dead plants and vintage prints:
1) Here you see my maternal grandparents: Victor and Sheila. They made quite a motley pair— he was sentimental and humorous, she practical and serious; he sang opera, she worked the garden; he favored philosophy, she ecology; he stayed up late drinking scotch and playing piano while she walked the dogs and went to bed at seven. How these two managed to live together harmoniously all their lives beats me, but they did, and apparently quite well: my grandmother told me that during all their years of marriage they only ever had one fight— during which she hurled a wineglass at my grandfather, missed, and wound up on the floor crying with laughter.
2) And here is my other pair of grandparents, Evelyn and Paul, who were a similarly disparate set of characters (except in this case their roles were swapped: He was the war veteran and stoic man-of-few-words from slavic stock, and she the 1950’s housewife—and Italian, to boot!— who was quite loquacious and merry, and whose primary interest was in cooking large homemade meals and getting them into the stomaches of whoever happened to be nearest by). I believe these two, however, got through their various differences by simply ignoring them and avoiding conflict, contrary to my other grandparents (for I wouldn’t call throwing wine goblets exactly conflict evasion)!
3)The the rest of this jungle is comprised of items that were significant to each of the four individuals: an old minolta camera for Victor, Sheila's favorite novel Green Mansions, a fishing lure for Paul, and an embroidered cross for the devout Evelyn.
To my dear albeit dead grandparents- I continue to love and think of you still. With sincerest wishes for a Happy All Souls Day (and other two days, as well!)- from one bungled spirit to another.