The woe being felt, due to the lack of a traditional American Halloween, was slightly alleviated by the observation of All Saints Day. Originating in the 700s CE, the Church decided that November 1st shall be the day to honor all of the saints that did not have their own day. A couple of hundred years later November 2nd was to honor all non-saintly defined deceased individuals, known as All Souls Day. Now, the two have merged and is observed on the Saturday between October 31 and November 6th.
Being new to this holiday, we didn’t know what to expect. Some friends of ours told us to wait for dark and then go to any cemetery to see the candles being lit for those that have died. Now that the sun sets around 4pm, that was not too difficult for us to manage. With the setting sun, we headed to the church and cemetery in town and were impressed by the reverence and respect being honored to all those who have passed away. In stark contrast to Halloween, with goblins and ghouls running around demanding tricks and treats, All Saints Day is much more of a solemn and reflective observance. Tiny flickers of light littered the cemetery as nearly all of the tombstones and graves had wreaths laid upon them with candles lit beside them. Family members circulated the cemetery to find the graves of both long and newly deceased friends and relatives. The church bells called out into the descending darkness calling those there to remember the dead in a special service of light.
My wife and I brought our boys to this partly out of our own curiosity, but also to expose them to a new holiday and observation regarding the dead. And luckily for us, we had a very curious three year old that pushed us out of our comfort zones and asked us to take him into the church. While being very respectful of all faiths and practices, my wife and I are both more disinclined to attend services. Upon K’s first request, we said no. It wasn’t appropriate, it’s not our church. But K insisted and caused us to to examine why we were saying no. Thankfully, we took the lead from our eldest son and went into the quaint church. While we did not stay for the service…something neither M or K probably could have sat quietly through, we were able to watch as the parishioners took to their pews and saw the surprisingly comforting interior of the church. Swedish design tends to be simple, which while nice is not always welcoming. But this church had a very warm and welcoming feel that took me back to the days when I too attended mass regularly as a child and my memories of stepping in from the cold outside to the warmth of the church inside. And though our visit to the church and cemetery was brief, I feel it was a good experience for all of us.