Honoring Your Ancestors
My dad was in the army around the time of the Korean war. He tells a story of meeting with his commanding officer who suggested he’s be great for a particular position: bomb technician. He’d have to take a test, of course. The commanding officer introduced Dad to the bomb technician who would be administering said test. My dad noticed that when the guy reached out to shake his hand several parts of the man’s fingers were missing at various knuckle points. The punch line of the story is my Dad saying “That’s the only test I’ve ever failed on purpose!”
I love that story and as I tell it I can see my Dad telling it to me, hiding parts of his fingers as he demonstrates the handshake. Makes me smile every time.
What exactly does that have to do with Halloween?
Several traditions and religions share the belief that the veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead is thinnest at this time. From the Celtic celebration of Samhain (pronounced Sah-wen) to the Mexican Dio de Meurtos, cultures around the world take time to remember our beloved dead at this time of year.
But what does that look like to us in the Western culture. In a society where self-sufficiency and independence is valued, what does it mean to honor their ancestors?
The simplest answer is story. After the trick-or-treating and the pumpkin carving, honoring the ancestors means lighting a candle and telling the stories of the people who came before us. My kids know my Dad from nights like these, and my grandma, too. Another family that joins us for circle loves this holiday because their Irish grandmother, a talented storyteller in her own right, is remembered and all the stories she made up are told.
This Halloween try carving out some time, maybe even while carving out the pumpkins, light a candle and share a story of a loved one long gone. The veil between the worlds is thin…they may even come to listen and share in the love.
Wishing you and yours a blessed Samhain,