Memories and carving pumpkins

 How do you celebrate Halloween?

In Sweden where I grew up, November 1st, is a day where you send a thought to loved ones that have passed away and you often visit their graves, put some plants and light a candle in their memory. I remember going with my grandmother to my grandfathers grave at the Eastern Cemetary in Malmo each year, and often also going to my paternal great grandmothers grave straight afterwards, to say a silent hello and to remember their life with us.

Östra kyrkogården Malmö, from here
Östra kyrkogården Malmö, from here

But more so, what is really more prevalent in my mind is the memory of feelings and sensations I got when entering this particular cemetery in late Swedish autumn. Often a rugged, cold and wet afternoon with not much sunlight, the remnants of once colourful leaves now turning brown on the ground as the photosynthesis gradually removes the chlorophyll from its veins. Muddled conversations from dark figures hunching over the graves of their forefathers, warm air blowing from their mouths as they say their hellos, how are yous and goodbyes. The flickering light from hundreds of individual candles that have been gently placed on each grave from somebody that needs to remember. A wet and stubborn runny nose turning red as the cold bites harder as darkness and evening sets in. The trees are almost naked now and the evergreen shrubbery and hedges line the grave divisions strictly ordering the system of the dead.
The sombre atmosphere is something that I treasure in my heart and in my memory. Tradition makes it happen and the landscape makes you feel it. 

from here

This way of celebrating Halloween predates the Christian church and is actually linked to Pagan Rituals of guiding the dead. The pagans believed that when summer was finished the dead returned home and needed people to light their way with fires, hence the lighting of candles, decorating and visiting of graves in modern time.
Here in Australia, I don’t quite know how it would feel like to experience the cemetery, tonight on the eve of the dead. I don’t know any dead people here. Although, being a landscape architect, I have of course wandered the aisles of many of the local cemeteries on days off but never on this night.
It would be such a different experience. First of all, we are going into summer here in Australia, so it would be warmer, perhaps more humid or dry, the mist, the wet air that is the fairy dance in the northern hemisphere is likely to be dust cloud from the gravel path here in the south, hovering slightly above the ground. Generally, my experience has been that the vegetation around the Australian cemeteries tend to be quite arid and bushy/thorny, almost like the dead themselves. They are not designed for grand displays of planting schemes; neither do they seem to be public spaces used beyond their primary program. But I haven’t seen them all, so I couldn’t possibly tell you that all of them are like this.

Östra kyrkogården Malmö, from here

Östra kyrkogården Malmö, from here

Commercially, Halloween to me is a pumpkin, little kids begging for sweets and money, horror on the television and a good excuse for grown up dress up parties and frolicking around.
Yes, I admit it. I bought a pumpkin solely on the premise that I’d get to carve into it and turn it into a scary looking piece of home decoration for a couple of nights in our house lit up with tea candles.

this years pumpkin

Buying a pumpkin and sitting down to watch Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas in candle light is as far as I get to celebrate the eve of the dead’s return to our earth this year as my two little darlings need their mum for bedtime.

Spiritually, I am sending thought to loved ones now passed. May they proceed in peace through the landscapes of memory.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...