For many children all over the world, Halloween is a time for playing dress up, carving pumpkins, and scouring the neighborhood in search for the house that offer the full-size candy bars. For adults, it is a time to dress a little naughty, have a few libations, and dance the night away to the Thriller soundtrack. Halloween has become a well loved Holiday in the US and beyond, a celebration of saccharine and unleashing our wild sides.
As a yoga teacher, I like to theme my classes around the Holidays, but was having a difficult time on how to infuse the Halloween theme into a 75 minute hot yoga class. Call me crazy, but Monster Mash does not seem appropriate to play for students, while guiding them through Sun B. So I set out to learn more about the origins of Halloween and found that there was much more to this day than just jack-o-lanterns and snack size Snickers bars. Below is a brief look of the roots of the modern day Halloween celebration.
- Samhain, pronounced Sah-Win, was an ancient Celtic festival celebrated the evening of October 31st thru November 1st. It marked the end of the harvest season and ushered in the darker winter months. Celts believed that in this transitional time the dead would walk among the living; It was a time to make connection with the deceased. Bonfires and feasts were held in Irish settlements to honor the ancestors and offerings of food where set out to welcome protective spirits and nature’s fairies. It is believed that the tradition of carving pumpkins came from Samhain, as well as the placing of candles in the pumpkins. These candles believed to help guide the dead back home after celebration.
- All Saint’s Day & All Souls’ Day were Catholic Church sanctioned Holidays that are celebrated November 1st and 2nd. All Saint’s commemorates and remembers those who have passed on and asecended to Heaven. All Souls’ Day recognizes those who have not made it Heaven…yet (and yikes!). Festivals and church services are held with special scriptures, hymns, and passages read as part of ancient tradition. It is also common that the names of those who have passed are either read out loud or etched into a memorial plaque.
- Dia De Los Muertos originating in Mexico and is translated to’ Day of the Dead’. It takes place October 31st thru November 2nd. Rooted in Catholic tradition, family and friends gather to pray for and remember those that have passed on. A walking procession to the burial sites is common, where people picnic at the grave sites of deceased, bringing with them the favorite foods and beverages of the departed. Private altars called ofrendas are built in homes and kids make festively decorated sugar skulls. Bright colorful marigolds decorate homes. The tradition is more a focus on rejoicing a life, rather than fearing it.
From what I learned, Halloween was really founded on honoring the connection, love and remembrance of our ancestors and those we’ve lost. By taking time to celebrate them, we can welcome back their spirit and energetic force and keep the memory of the deceased alive.
I can understand how Halloween became known for hauntings, ghosts and spirits; But this does not necessarily need to be a scary thing. I often question how it became so. Maybe it is because in the darkness, we take ourselves back to place of fear and vulnerability. Of pain and loss. And yes that place can be very scary. So over time, we chose to disguise it with a costume and favor this place with sugary treats. Al just really forms of distractions. Instead, why not make this Halloween about reconnecting with the people both alive and who have passed on. A commemoration of stories and ancestry. We can all redefine Halloween as a time of remembrance and celebration.
And as every great yoga class needs a good playlist, here is one I share with you. Please enjoy as you honor the memory of a loved one. Namaste.
Jason Mraz – Rise
FC Kahuna – Hayling
Blackmill – Journey’s End
Groove Armada – Hands Of Time
Kate Miller-Heidke – Share Your Air (feat. Passenger)
Flight Facilities – Clair De Lune (feat. Christine Hoberg)
Aby Wolf – Listen
Apparat – Interlude
Bright Eyes – First Day Of My Life
The Killers – Sam’s Town – 2006/Live from Abbey Road
Lotte Kestner – Halo
Devendra Banhart – I Remember
Lia Ices – Wish You Were Here
Van Morrison – Astral Weeks
Cat Power – I Found A Reason
This blog is dedicated to my father, Armando Garcia. Dad, I miss you and love you dearly. Thank you for your support through the years. I am on this journey because of you. I hope wherever your spirit is, you are smiling and proud.
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