I’ve noticed here in the US that Halloween has gained importance as a holiday for children and adults alike. More homes are doing extravagant decorating, ingenious costumes are created, and Halloween parades are everywhere.
What does this holiday say to or about women over 60? There are Halloween elements, regardless of where it is celebrated, that speak to looking back and others that speak to looking ahead and caring for our future.
Last year, I was fortunate to be traveling on the Island of Guadeloupe on All Saints Day. On Guadeloupe, this is a two-day celebration. Families visit gravesites of relatives, wash the gravestones, bring fresh foliage and whatever else may be needed.
The grave washing is generally followed by a return to the home or to a restaurant for a large family gathering with food and warm remembrances. The tradition brings a sense of continuity and caring.
A few years earlier, while I visited Hawaii, there was an opportunity to attend a ceremony called the Dance of the Dead. I was told the type of dance and chant are particular to the region where participants originated.
Held at a different time of the year than the Celtic and All Saints traditions, this dance and chant is part of a Buddhist Obon tradition dating back more than 500 years. This tradition believes that a time comes when the spirits of the ancestors return to earth.
Spirits are welcomed by lanterns or some other form of fire. Through good deeds, souls of ancestors are freed, and the dance is a mark of gratitude and celebration.
Long before All Saints Day and Obon became celebrations and commemorations, the Ancient Celts marked an event called Samhain as a fire festival, taking place at the end of the harvest season.
A common fire was built, and families took a flame from it back to their homes. Again, the sense of continuity and community were communicated through this tradition.
In the Celtic tradition, ghosts, spirits, or creatures from the unknown could breach a barrier with the living during Halloween, or All Hallows Eve. To avoid being identified by dreaded spirits, some Celts dressed in disguise or wore masks as a foil to avoid recognition.
We all have our fears – of the unknown, particularly the future, and of the past, how it may creep in and ruin our present lives. Some of us go as far as to wear ‘masks’ that hide who they really are for fear they might be hurt.
But at 60 and beyond, we can learn to be above those fears. We don’t need to hide behind masks or live in a past that was hurtful. What we can do is embrace who we are, today, and live our lives authentically.
The Celts sometimes left offerings of food and wine outside homes and villages, sometimes to share with ancestors, other times to appease unwanted spirits.
We do that too, albeit in a different way. Sometimes we take actions intended to appease those around us to avoid being seen as confrontational. And sometimes we simply want to share our good fortune with our community.
Regardless of how the winds of life have buffeted us about, by age 60 and above we are likely to have experienced some fortunate events to be thankful for.
Did you ever have a boss who saw the potential in you no one else saw? Have you ever had a stranger point you in the right direction when you were totally lost, or had a friend step in with some words of wisdom when you were about to make a rash decision?
Take a moment during this Hallows Eve and do your own dance and chant with a thanks to ancestors or those in your past who lent you a hand, a thought, a word, at the right moment. Move your body in dance.
As a runner, there is a method we use to take us through a tough portion of a race. We develop a mantra that can be as long or as short as works. It can be a single word or a phrase, like, “Forward” or “I can do this,” or “thanks for this body carrying me forward.”
Develop your own mantra and celebrate yourself this Hallows Eve with dance and chant, honoring those who helped you through these first 60-some years on earth, and in gratitude of how you can yet flourish and what you can accomplish moving forward.
Do you have a Halloween tradition? How do you deal with fears of the unknown and the long, dark days of winter? How do you honor those who came before you or have been there for you? Please share your stories with our community.