I concur with Heather, Halloween is definitely not our holiday either. We had one group of 5 or 6 kids who came to our door. And that was it for the rest of the evening. We took the Mischief Maker to trick or treat at relatives’ houses. I thought we would see some activity in the streets. But except for a witch and her companion (not sure what he/she was dressed up as, but it looked like Cousin Itt from The Addams Family) the streets were empty. Maybe it was due to the rain. But I honestly think that Halloween is too foreign a notion for this island. It will come with time, I am sure, as everything else does, but it has no roots here, no deep-seated tradition.
Today is the feast of All Saints; tomorrow, the feast of All Souls. Unlike witches on broomsticks and grinning Jack o’ Lanterns, saints and souls are, very much, a part of our culture. Saints are honoured here.
Every village has its patron saint and the festas in their honour are annual events that are still eagerly awaited by many - and celebrated with much pomp and circumstance. Coupled with this is a morbid fascination with souls and with death in general which seems to form an inseparable part of our southern Mediterranean psyche. The reminders are constant and can be found in the most unlikely of places.
November is, unofficially , the month dedicated to the dead. Flower sellers sit patiently outside cemeteries, in the midst of a colourful display of fat chrysanthemum blooms. Mums – the flowers which in the US are so closely associated with the harvest - are used here to adorn the graves of the dead. Not surprisingly, they are known as the flowers of the dead. Some consider them to be unlucky.
I try to remain rational, to stand aloof from superstition, but November has a sad aura associated with it that even I cannot escape from. Perhaps it’s because at this time of year the Earth itself is plunging into darkness. The parallels are obvious. It should be just another month of the year but tradition and culture have decided otherwise. Deep-seated beliefs die hard, even for those standing on the outside and just looking in.
If you are still in the mood for something grisly, National Geographic’s photo tour of Crypts & Catacombs will give you your fill of the weird.
P.S. I promise that next time I will write about something more cheerful.