The stories of my life on a little island in the middle of the Mediterranean sea ... and my occasional adventures beyond these shores.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Feast Of All Souls

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.
St Agatha & Hal-Bajjada (22)
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. Valletta 152
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. Valletta 113
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. Medieval Mdina (57)
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.Medieval Mdina (62)
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.


  1. Loree, it's interesting that high school students give each other mums for Homecoming dances and that, elsewhere they are considered unlucky and associated with mourning the departed.

  2. Good morning Loree and thank you for mentioning me. You know, I think that our version of these holidays in France is even different from yours on Malte. So it isn't just a Latin culture issue but one that is more personal. With attendance in Catholic churches having fallen sharply, here it is much more about the Souls than the Saints, so I find it really interesting that the Saints are still an important part of life where you are.

    Wishing you a wonderful weekend ahead and write whatever you want, cheerful or not--I'll be here!

  3. For the first time in my adult life and by my own choice, I went to church for the mass of All Saints. It was a touching celebration as I have been consumed and fascinated with the life the Saints lived lately.

    I love that you share a bit of tradition of your island! Have a wonderful weekend..

  4. Hello Loree;
    We identify with so much of what you write here for it is equally the same in this, our adopted country of Hungary. Last night, along with thousands of others, we lit candles by which to remember the dead.

    We find ourselves at odds with the traditions of Hallowe'en which are outside of our own culture and that of the one in which we live.

  5. these are beautiful photos of powerful images that surround you where you live. i guess i'm strange, but i've always loved this time of year. on the surface there does seem to be a lot of focus on death, with the church holidays, but they are rooted in ancient agrarian traditions that understood the revolution of the seasons must mean the crops go fallow for a time in order to re-seed and bloom again when the earth warms. seen that way perhaps can shift the perception from morbid to life-enhancing. once we reach midwinter and the solstice of december 21st, remember that every night after grows shorter and the days grow longer.

  6. Dear Loree, Isn't it strange how each place has different traditions. I am not a Halloween person either. As a kid enjoyed dressing up and going door to door in the little village and gathering candy but for the most part that is all Halloween was to me. Where I live we never get any trick or treaters. Live too far out in the country. Like the idea of your All-saints day much better. Thanks for sharing. Have a lovely week-end.

  7. It is very much the same thing here on my side of the world, yes, remaining in the Mediterranean, Italy has the same traditions as regards to the departed souls. Halloween is not celebrated much here.
    Good pictures Loree, gruesome but great captures.

  8. What a fascinating insight into how others celebrate this time of year, and it always interests me how many of these celebrations have pagan roots. Enjoy All Saints, I am sure there will be festivities to enjoy. I can't imagine what it's like when the sun shines, it's been so long since I've seen it :-)

  9. Loree, I only had 2 trick and treaters this year, no joke.
    November is kind of a gloomy month for me, but somehow I like it... it puts me in touch with people long gone. Sounds crazy I know, but somehow it isn't.

  10. Holloween is not celebrated here in Germany...but All Saint's Day on November 1...everything is closed and candles lit and strolls to the cemetary to lay fresh flowers and memorial candles.

  11. Although our area was ravaged by hurricane Sandy, the scream and chatter of kids in costumes was a welcome relief to a devastating storm. In the Philippines, All Souls' Day is celebrated on Nov. 1st when families and relatives visit their departed loves one in the cemetery.

  12. This year was no Halloween festivities here, no decoration, nothing. The last 3 years there was a party in the central park of Waterloo and kids were in costumes. Here too November is a month dedicated to the death and it starts with All Saints day which is a holiday and people cleaning graves and put flowers on them. Belgium is a catholic country too.

  13. Halloween is slowly finding its place here too
    My boys were so excited by it this year, but who knows what next time will bring?
    Yes, deep-seated beliefs are strong ones - that's a good thing right?


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