Halloween! As a kid growing up in 1960’s New Zealand we couldn’t have been further away from the hype and hoopla that was Halloween, as portrayed by the movies and the odd television show we would see from America (we got our first black and white TV in 1965). So, for me, Halloween was never a big thing. Oh sure, when my kids reached a certain age and exposed to American TV culture as they were, of course, they wanted to go “trick or treating”, but the reality was it simply wasn’t the thing to do, there in suburban Mosgiel. I did take my son once, but after the tenth house where no one opened the door to his knock, he rapidly lost interest in the whole idea.
For us, of British extraction November 5th (Guy Fawkes Night) was always a much bigger celebration than October 31st, the traditional date for Halloween. Guy Fawkes Night celebrates the attempt by one Guy Fawkes and his Catholic friends to assassinate the Protestant King James and replace him with his daughter, Princess Elizabeth, third in line for the throne, by blowing up the Houses of Parliament, along with the King, on November 5th 1605. The plot was discovered, however, and Guy Fawkes was tortured, tried, executed, by hanging, his body then quartered and distributed to the “four corners” of the kingdom, on January 31st, 1606. In England and in its Commonwealth countries, such as New Zealand, November 5th is a night of bonfires, fireworks, and fun.
Since moving to The Philippines, eight years ago, I’ve had the opportunity to view Halloween from the perspective of a country steeped in American tradition (The Philippines was a colony of the US from 1898 until 1946). It’s a lot of fun and I do love giving out the candy to the hordes of young boys and girls who turn up on our doorstep, “trick or treating”. Here, though, in this deeply Catholic country, these dates are more important for two special holidays. “All Saints Day” (November 1st) and “All Souls Day” (November 2nd). All Saints Day is a celebration of the Catholic Saints and their importance in the lives of the faithful.
What I found even more fascinating was All Souls Day, where Christians are commanded to pray for and remember their dead brothers and sisters in Christ. Here in The Philippines, All Souls Day has become a family occasion in which families gather at the gravesides of their dearly departed family members, pray for them and thank them for the part they played in their family’s lives. The commitment, the dedication and the honesty of the millions of Filipinos who flock to the cemeteries every November 2nd, to sit in the blazing heat and reminisce, tell stories, and even share jokes about their departed family members have always filled me with awe. For Filipinos, it is about family, togetherness and sharing a joint experience, often through harsh and difficult time. I find that incredibly refreshing, in this increasingly “me-centric” world.
However, you celebrate the period: Be it Halloween, Guy Fawkes, All Saints or All Souls Day; may you take pleasure from the simple joy of being together, breaking bread with with each other, and enjoying each other’s company.
Grant Leishman is a fifty-nine-year-old full-time author and editor, domiciled in the beautiful islands of The Philippines. After careers in finance and journalism, Grant finally found his true bliss in life – writing. He his happily married to Thess and they have two daughters, Rose and Angeline. You can discover more about Grant here: www.amazon.com/Grant-Leishman/e/B012ATB9N0
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