Wednesday, October 21, 2009
While the western world celebrate Halloween as a day of fear for the living, (to ward off evil they made their houses cold and uninviting and dressed themselves as witches, ghouls and goblins to scare them away) we, in this part of the globe celebrate it as All Souls Day. A day of remembrance for all dear souls departed.
Come every November 1st, you will be amazed at how memorial parks and cemetery feels like a public park, or a fancy subdivision than what it truly is. The atmosphere; manicured rolling greens lawns, big beautiful trees, a fertile landscape, beautiful terrain, combined with families practically frolicking beside the graves of their relatives - is not just serene, but nearly pleasant.
All cemeteries throughout the Philippines is packed with Filipinos visiting the graves of their loved ones during this day. You will see a family walks down a foot path, carrying bottles of soda, plastic tubs food, a blanket and a guitar. Or another family who would gathered around a tree with the father and his two kids tossing a ball back and forth while mom sits in a chair eating. Nearby another family would have spread out their things, their kids playing badminton while the parents light a barbecue.
Yes, it's an event that defies description, especially when certain sight will remind you exactly where you are. The head stones hint of so many stories, many lives that have, in their own small way and in such a brief time, brought the world to where it is today.
But even with those glaring headstones, memorial parks on ALL Souls Day have a carnival-like atmosphere. There cannot be too many places on earth where people literally hold family parties on top of the grave of their dead relatives. Yes it's no big deal for us Filipinos because its just the way it is, and we don't think that having a party like atmosphere in the cemetery is anything unique. But any outsider would definitely say it is, well, different.
I know where you come from, cemeteries are so solemn as to be practically morbid. And maybe you spend as little time as possible there. Perhaps to think of enjoying oneself inside a cemetery is a serious no-no.
But this is our unique Filipino custom. Instead of celebrating Halloween dressed in scary costume and doing trick or treat, we honor our dead by spending the whole day with them and do the things that we would do together if they are still alive - eat, sing, play, gossip and laugh!
And yes, everyone is always welcome to party with us.