IN CELEBRATION OF SPIRITS (SIMPLE THINGS) - Katie Treggiden Skip to content

IN CELEBRATION OF SPIRITS (SIMPLE THINGS)

This article was written 4 years ago.

All copy as provided to the publication.

In Sweden, instead of celebrating All Hallow’s Eve they commemorate Alla Helgons Dag – All Saint’s Day – and it is an altogether more gentle affair.

Halloween evolved out of Samhain, a Celtic festival during which people would light fires to ward off evil spirits. In 731AD, Pope Gregory III declared 01 November a day of remembrance for all the saints without official days of their own. From the 11th century, the day commemorated all dead and became All Souls’ Day. The night before, All Hallows’ Eve, took on some of the ideas from Samhain as a cleansing ritual before the day ahead. Over time it has evolved into Halloween – a secular event in which children dress up and knock on doors calling “trick or treat” – the threat of practical jokes unless they are bribed with sweets. The increasingly commercialised celebrations embraced by much of the Western world have largely been imported from America, where elaborate costumes bear less and less relation to the origins of the festival. The Swedes, however, have a different approach.

Sweden experiences extreme winters with only a few hours daylight, so Swedes take the changing of the seasons very seriously. Alla Helgons Dag (which now falls on the first Saturday of November) coincides with the first day of winter, and so, with a more positive focus than the preceding evening, is also about celebrating light as the nights draw in.

If you can’t visit Sweden to take part in Alla Helgons Dag yourself, why not celebrate at home with one of these three ideas:

1.    If you’re not comfortable walking through a cemetery at night, take a walk through your nearest graveyard before it gets dark and contemplate the people you’ve lost as well as those you still have around you. Come home to a cosy fire and light a candle in honour of each person you want to remember.

2.    Create a miniature shrine to your lost loved ones including a photograph, a candle and perhaps a couple of mementoes. Use the evening as an opportunity to share happy memories about that person.

3.    Share a candle-lit meal with the loved ones you still have around you – Swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam would be perfect. Raise a glass to those you’ve loved and lost.