Halloween or All Saints Day? With the end of October fast approaching, I thought it would be a good idea to share with you what exactly the upcoming festivities mean to me. 31st of October is traditionally tied to Halloween in the UK, but in my country it’s the following All Saints Day that is still of major importance.
Growing up in Slovakia, Halloween used to be a bit foreign to me. All Saints Day or All Soul’s Day was all I knew. The first time I learned a bit more about Halloween was probably when I was getting ready for my A levels from English language. British and American holidays and traditions was one of the topics we had to learn about.
There was no trick or treating during my childhood, no pumpkin carving, no scary decorations or dressing up during this time of the year. It was all about honouring the saints and remembering the family members that are no longer with us.
When I look back at my childhood, I have some fond memories of the last minute shopping of flowers, candles and specially made wreaths. And family get-togethers as well.
We would then visit the cemetaries where our loved ones are buried and pay them respect by lighting a candle, laying a flower and saying a little prayer over their graves. A rather low-key affair. Nothing big, no fancy Halloween parties.
And if you were lucky enough to live near the cemetary, you could then enjoy the view of the lit candles at night. This really got me into the spirit of the holiday.
Things are different these days. Yes, people still visit the graves of their deceased family members but American and British traditions are slowly but surely starting to find its way into our households too. This is the case in big cities mainly. I’m not there to witness it myself but I know that Halloween is gaining in popularity and becoming more accepted, especially with the younger generation.
But when I first arrived in the UK twelve years ago, I knew very little about the way many Brits celebrate Halloween. So it was rather surprising when I suddenly saw the spooky house decorations, shops filled up with Halloween stuff weeks and weeks prior to the holiday, scary and fancy party costumes for sale everywhere.
The bottom line, Halloween is way different in the UK than it is in Slovakia. Even after so many years, it’s still quite foreign to me. Throughout my life Halloween, or All Saints Day as it’s known in my country, has been a quiet time to pay respect to deceased family members and suddenly there was all this madness that comes with Halloween.
I still don’t celebrate Halloween. I’m not the biggest fan, but ok, I get it in a way. I understand how it can be great fun, especially for kids. But for me, this time of the year will always be connected with my own traditions. Of course, I can’t visit the graves of my loved ones personally but I always remember them. Even if it’s just for few minutes of quiet time, just me and my thoughts.
Now that I am a mum and raising a child in the UK, I can’t say that I won’t be going trick-or-treating with my little one as she grows older. After all, the nationality in her passport says British. I want her to know both British and her parents’ culture and traditions.
So I won’t stop her if she decides she wants to celebrate Halloween like British people do, but I’ll make sure she understands that it’s not just about horror costumes and getting sweets.