Long before the church said it was evil and before Hollywood and candy companies made a fortune, a simple holiday took place on October 31st. The third and final harvest festival and the eve of the new year called Samhain (pronounced Sow-en).
The hard work of farming, hunting, and filling the larder was through as the winds changed, the sun went to bed earlier and earlier, and dark settled upon the land. It was an inevitable time for introspection, remembering those that had passed on throughout the year, and reminiscing around the table with mead and friends. A million miles from the Celtic homes, the Day of the Dead was being celebrated in Mexico.
There was a time when everyone was attuned to the spiritual energies around us. It was nothing weird or scary, it just was. October 31st is when the veil between the worlds is thinnest. Our deceased loved ones can always hear us but at this time of year, sometimes, they can reach us and they can certainly hear us better.
For children, sugar rushes and the perfect costume steal the holiday. I wanted Maryjane to know what the real holiday was all about. I simplified the ceremony so that my four year old granddaughter could understand. Of course children innately know these things. I had her draw pictures of the people or animals she wanted to talk to. She wrote adorable letters instead. One to Anakan the snake, one to Grandma Kat, and one to Grant, her mom’s boyfriend’s brother who died a few years ago in a car accident.
We decorated the alter (the wood stove) with a beautiful nest we had found, a feather, and a butterfly that has passed away on my porch. Her letters and a bell were really all we needed.
She chose a candle and so did I. I chose pink for love and she did the same. We thought of our people that we loved and missed (for me; Nancy, Kat, Great-Grandma, my Uncles…) and lit the candles. We looked at pictures. She sat in her little chair and read the letters to them and listened.
By incorporating the original spiritual belief systems and the nature based holidays, children learn connection to all things and great empathy. Children naturally understand. Giving them a basis to work with as they get older to celebrate and remember will help them create their own traditions. It helps children learn to deal with grief and I know Kat, Anikan, and Grant enjoyed hearing that little voice.