Near Half Moon Bay, just a short drive from San Francisco about 15 years ago I visited Lemos Farm, the best pumpkin patch on the West Coast. I was amazed to see a huge variety of pumpkins, large and small, of many colours laid out on the ground for the locals and city folk to come and buy for their Halloween decorations. This was the first and only time I’d been in the States for this time of year. On the night of October 31 st there was a festive atmosphere as children and their parents went out ‘trick or treating’, every house had a huge basket of candy for the kids and they were dressed up as ghost and ghouls, a brilliant night of innocent fun.
In the 15 years since the American Halloween has made its way across the Atlantic and now our neighbourhoods are covered in cobwebs, witches, skeletons and of course pumpkins too. Children enjoy dressing up, going door to door, in search of sweets. There doesn’t seem to be much appetite here for pumpkin pie, so loved by the American cousins, but thank goodness, we still have apple tarts, with a ring or coin hidden beneath the pastry. Most of our traditional Halloween games and traditions are gone, no longer are faces carved in turnips, with a candle stump pressed into the center showing a weird grin when darkness
falls. I doubt that too many kids will bob for apples, or try to get a bite out of an apple on a string, or enjoy a homemade toffee apple. We also had a more mischievous side to our Halloween celebrations in the rural area where I grew up. We made masks out of paper, and went out disguised to misbehave. Many farmers woke up on the morning after Halloween to find their gates gone, usually lifted off its hinges and buried in a nearby bush! Our culture had a sense of the restless spirits of the dead moving around, bringing some fear, fright or upset to the community.
Of course, when we woke the following morning, the dawn was the beginning of the great Feast of All Saints, a Holy Day of Obligation and off we went to Mass. Our dead were buried in the grounds of the church and we were used to stopping off at the family grave on our way into church. Needless to say, the graves were all intact! The dead buried in holy ground had no need to wander like the restless spirits. The Mass of All Saints reassured us that the final resting place of the souls of the just is in our heavenly home. We continued to ask their protection, intercession and support from the place where one day we hope to meet them again.
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