I've never quite "gotten" Halloween. Maybe it's like Root Beer, and you have to grow up with it to let its charm make its way into your life. Later in life, it just doesn't seem to work.
The first time I heard about it, I was 15 or 16, and my parents, having committed wholeheartedly to a move to the US, had hired an American tutor to teach my little brother and sister English. They spent several months out of school and learning all this woman could pass on to them about their future home country. When October came, they got dressed up as something and asked for candies in a France that had not yet caught on to the holiday. It was weird.
A year later, they went door to door in hot and muggy Florida and were properly initiated to the ritual. I still did not get it.
When my children grew up in this country a decade later, I found joy in making costumes for them and holding their little hands as they collected their very sweet loot, walking through the streets of our island. It still felt foreign to me but their delight bridged the culture for several years.
Now, Halloween still catches me a little bit by surprise and I usually let the day pass quietly.
Talking with a friend in Mexico last night, I am blessed with an intimate glimpse into another tradition: Dia de los Muertos. My friend tells me about her sadness at not being able to go to the cemetery today, as she does every year. The 2020 lockdown is in full swing this week and much of the Essence of Community that makes this celebration so joyful and rich will have to be morphed into a quieter, more private home celebration. Her words are deep and powerful as she describes the sweetness of creating altars and invitations to celebrate the people she loves who are no longer alive. She tells me of the happiness it brings her to prepare her mom's favorite food and play her favorite songs.
She says to me: "we believe that they come to visit us on this day, and this is a very beautiful thing."
I think of my own mom who died two years ago and I think of how, once the initial mourning had passed, no day was reserved to bring forward her presence into this life. Somehow, in the light of my friend's words, I feel an emptiness, almost a need. I take her words in and imagine the power of a whole household, village, community, country pausing for a bit to let their hearts celebrate the ones that came before. Together.
Of course, we can do things on our own for anniversaries but I am sensing that the power of Community has to be a strong part of it. As well as the Essence of Celebration, with music and colors and food, and more.
Not all traditions come with a passport, and when our conversation ended, I knew that I had just opened my heart up to a new one.
Because Life knows how to guide us and validate us, I spent part of the night laughing with my mom, in my dreams.