All saints day

All Saints Day. Five below. Clear sky. Crunchy frost.

The first snow came the night before last. Wet slushy snow blew out of the sky all night. Maria struggled out of bed to leave for work in the darkness before six. She took the bus, rather than the bike, due to the awful weather. It was gusty and wet and miserable. Snow continued to blow in all morning, but it was too warm for the ground to stay covered. The afternoon was grey and dull and damp. I was indoors most of the day. Last night was Halloween. Sweden seems keen to embrace the American traditions and last night small witches and wizards were seen prowling the streets with baskets of sweets.

Halloween is an Irish tradition, Hanna told me yesterday. Her “home language” teacher, Christy, is Irish, and he explained that it was a tradition taken to America from Ireland. All Hallows Eve. I wrote about it the first year we were here, in 2006. Today is All Hallows Day, or All Saints Day, as we tend to call it in the English speaking world. In Sweden on this day every year people visit graveyards, to lay flowers on the graves of their dear departed. Graveyards in this country, which are often, but not always, churchyards, are to a large extent exquisitely maintained. Today they will be the meeting places for thousands of Swedes. For many there will be a traditional family dinner afterwards.

Seems extraordinary in modern secular Sweden that these “high days” are remembered so religiously. Sometimes I wonder just how secular Sweden really is. Indeed, how secular are human beings. Despite all the efforts of Dawkins and his buddies, it seems almost impossible to remove a sense of the “supernatural”, the spiritual, from the minds of us humans. God will simply not be removed. He remains stubbornly in the back of all our minds, waiting, it seems, in the shadows. Halloween comes with its reminder of the dark side. All Saints Day with its longing for eternal life. Or even in more recent communities like Australia, where all the old traditions seem largely forgotten or ignored, there is the miracle of birth and the ugliness of death to constantly make us wonder what is really going on behind the scenes.

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One thought on “All saints day

  1. Irish, or American, Halloween has not been an Australian Tradition, but I fear the American version of it is becoming more and more entrenched here in Oz. We have not been visited by Trick-or-treaters yet, but I know people who have. It’s tricky – how to try to prevent the ‘tradition’ taking hold without shattering the hopes of expectant (sometimes alarmingly young) children.

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