Honoring the Dead on Halloween

All Saints Day, All Souls Day, All Hallows Eve, Halloween, all traditions seeped in mystery, and the mystical.

Traditions designed to remember the Dead, whether it be in Japan, Cambodia, Mexico or the U.S.A, October 31 to Nov 2 are dates honor all those who have passed before us. And we keep them alive through our memories.

All Saints’ Day is a solemn holy day of the Catholic Church celebrated annually on November 1. The day is dedicated to the saints of the Church, that is, all those who have attained heaven.

All-Saints-Day-Catholics-2It should not be confused with All Souls’ Day, which is observed on November 2, and is dedicated to those who have died and not yet reached heaven.

Protestants generally regard all true Christian believers as saints and if they observe All Saints Day at all they use it to remember all Christians both past and present.

In the United Methodist Church, All Saints’ Day is celebrated on the first Sunday in November.

It is held, not only to remember Saints, but also to remember all those that have died that were members of the local church congregation.

In some congregations, a candle is lit by the Acolyte as each person’s name is called out by the clergy. Prayers and responsive readings may accompany the event. Often, the names of those who have died in the past year are affixed to a memorial plaque.

diademuertosIn Mexico and many parts of Latin America, Day of the Dead is observed. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died, and help support their spiritual journey.

This is usually accompanied with food and drink, and lots of sweets. This holiday starts October 31 and ends November 2 much like All Saint’s Day in the Christian traditions.

In Japan, The Festival of the Dead is called Obon, is held every year in the month of August.  Not the same date as here in the west, but just as significant. The festival often goes by a second name: The Festival of Lanterns.

As in the traditional festival of Halloween, the souls of the departed return to the world of the living during this time.

However, unlike Halloween, in which the souls of the dead are often imagined as malevolent or angry, like the Headless Horseman, Obon is a day when the spirits return to visit their relatives.


Many Buddhists in Japan celebrate this holiday by preparing offerings of special food for their ancestors’ spirits, which are placed on altars in temples and in their homes. As the sun goes down families light paper lanterns and hang them in front of their houses to help the spirits find their way home.

The celebrations end with families sending colorful paper lanterns lit by candles floating down the rivers and bays of Japan and out to sea. The string of colorful lights bobbing in the water are meant to guide the spirits of their loved ones back to the realm of the dead until next year.

Halloween evolved from the Celtic festival known as Samhain 2,000 years ago. In addition to celebrating the end of the harvest, they believed that on the night of October 31 ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future.

For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter.


What all these traditions have in common, is not so much ghosts, but people who have died, people we all know or remember. Even the Celts took comfort in receiving messages from those who had passed onto the spirit world.

There are several methods and ways to honor ancestors or those you’ve known in the past, but there are also modern methods to remember them.

You don’t have to create an altar, or say a lot of mumbo jumbo words, you can simply make offers. You don’t have to leave food out for the dead; you can collect food for a local homeless shelter and bring it there to donate it in your family’s name.

This is a great way to honor your relatives who you feel have made a contribution to your life — pay it forward.

Make a habit of remembering them — it doesn’t have to be an elaborate ritual; a dinnertime toast or quiet reflection at a regular time of the month or year can suffice. You will be amazed at how you start to feel more connected to them, and in turn it will deepen your appreciation for your own life and the contributions you are making to your family line.

candlelightSo when we do think of that new costume to wear or what we are going to serve at our Halloween party, or what slasher movies to watch, we should set aside a moment to remember our own ancestors and those who have gone before us.

Perhaps as we light the jack-o-lantern or other candles, we can send them all love and smile as we remember them.





loveneverdiesdancingIf you are looking for some interesting Halloween Decor, here are some of my favorite items.

Love Never Dies  And The Ballroom Dancing Figures.

There are actually hundreds of Dia de los Muertos (day of the dead) collectibles at Amazon.






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