I have always loved Halloween, and I love it now more than ever.
I love to get in costume and have fun with other people in costume. People seem freer when they are dressed in different clothes. They seem to have a little more fun. I like the challenge of making or putting together elaborate costumes but, as the years passed, I’ve done less and less of it. Costume parties seem to be less common, and I don’t spend time in bars, so the opportunity to celebrate the holiday has diminished.
Then I started going to Mexico, and all that changed.
Halloween is celebrated there, but it is a more somber affair, with beautiful “ofrendas” dedicated to the dead in homes, in the parks and in the cemeteries. It is a tradition that brings the dead closer to the living through remembrances and photos and collections of the things and the people the dead loved, all gathered together in their honor.
And then there is a party.
After Halloween, the Day of the Dead is celebrated, followed by All Souls Day, and each has its own significance, and its own traditions, which vary from one community to another. But what is, in the U.S., a short evening’s activity celebrated primarily by children is a much bigger deal, a celebration that goes on for most of the week, involving people of all ages. The celebrations mix a reverence for the dead and a joy for life in a way I find breathtaking.
So my husband, Peter, and I will be celebrating Halloween this year. Peter, it should be noted, is not as big on the whole “getting into costume thing” as I am.
“What will I wear?” he asks, with obvious skepticism.
He worries he will look silly. He is sure he will be uncomfortable. But I have gotten Peter a costume (a fabulous costume, if I say so myself!), and he says he is going to wear it. He knows it is important to me and he genuinely enjoys the celebration and so, this year, he will be a part of it—even if that might not be his first choice.
But, because we will be celebrating in Mexico, I want to observe the other part of the holiday as well.
Last week, we celebrated my mother’s birthday with my parents and sister and my father’s only sister, Joanne, and her husband. We got to talking about my father’s mother. Joanne was telling the story we all knew about how my grandma wore elegant purple suede boots in her late 80s and thought — because of her cataracts — they were brown. No one thought a thing of it, because my grandma was always a stylish dresser, and we thought those purple boots were snazzy. But when my grandma found out, she took Joanne to task.
“Why didn’t you tell me I was wearing purple boots?” she demanded.
My grandma wore a bright fuchsia raincoat to her husband’s funeral. I honestly don’t think any of us were to blame.
But it is a wonderful story, a great remembrance of my grandma, who lived to be 100 years old and gave us so many good memories. I love the idea of a day — or the better part of a week — set aside to tell stories like that and to keep the memory of my grandma, and so many others we have loved so much, alive.
And then we do will exactly what my grandma would have liked best. We will get all dressed up and have a big party.
Till next time,