On Halloween And The Day Of The Dead

“Things always get worse before they get better, master Bruce.”

~Alfred Pennyworth, The Dark Knight

Well, as I’ve said in my previous article, it’s only just September and, already, people are hanging Christmas decorations and Christmas songs have begun flooding the airwaves. Now don’t get me wrong, I like Christmas as much as the next guy. I’m no Grinch, okay?

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However, with the way Christmas seems to be fast on the approach, people today are overlooking a very specific time or season in the year: Halloween and the Day of the Dead. In this materialistic and vapid age, commemoration of death and the dead has been almost all but forgotten, glossed over or outright ignored by the many.


Of course, it was not always like so. Before the technological revolution of the 90’s in the Philippines, the commemoration of the departed in the Philippines had been a strong tradition as it is in other countries. Families would gather at cemeteries to visit their lost loved ones and spend quality time together under the sun and in the company of friends and neighbors. Then, in the evenings, TV Patrol would showcase some scary stories which were often cheesy but somehow memorable in their own right.

However, due to the ever deteriorating mindset of the populace and their obsession with a facade of happiness, typical Pinoys jump almost immediately to the Yuletide Season without sparing any kind of acknowledgement for the dead as they once did. As I’ve mentioned before, people often deem life and death to be opposing forces despite the fact that not only are they not opposites; they are connected on a deep and almost singular level. After all, everything that lives will eventually die and that everything that has died was once alive.

A good number of people today become uncomfortable around the very mention of death and often refuse to acknowledge it. When themes of death are discussed in local TV, the most common reaction you’ll get are: “It’s so negative!” Few ever come to the realize that life and death are actually linked and that only by acknowledging our mortality can we come to understand our individual importance in the world.

On another note, from a more esoteric perspective, the Season of the Dead more or less represents, for me at least, the darkest or lowest part of the year, especially if compared to the more festive mood of the Yuletide Season which quickly follows it. As a young boy with an overactive imagination, I once thought that the Season of the Dead is when dark spirits and powers are at the strongest but the arrival of Christmas defeats them and ushers in a New Year full of potential for good until the cycle repeats itself again. As the quote above implies, more often than not, the dawn of a new and better tomorrow is often preceded by darkness and that we must be prepared to brave the dark and face its challenges before we can finally begin a new day.

As J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books once said, when we can accept death as an inevitable and natural part of life, then we can finally make peace with our inner selves and find our place in the world and, when the Reaper comes knocking, he will come as an old friend who will take us home. But when we run from death and seek constantly to avoid him, then he will seem like a dreaded hunter who will never allow us to find peace.


7 Replies to “On Halloween And The Day Of The Dead”

  1. This is what Wikipedia says about the day of the dead in the Philippines.

    Day of the dead
    The Philippines
    In predominantly Roman Catholic Philippines, all saints’ day and all souls’ day are family-orientated, solemn celebrations. Both days are taken to be a single occasion (with some urban areas including Halloween) that is traditionally termed Allhallowtide in English and known in the Philippines as Undás (from the Spanish andas, or possibly honra), Todos los Santos (Spanish, “All saints’ day”), or Araw ng mga Patáy (Tagalog, “Day of the dead”) – the last two terms being proper to the first and second days of November, respectively.
    The holiday is often ranked as second in importance after Christmas and holy week, as these three observances are the most popular seasons in the year that people return to their respective hometowns. Only 1 November is a considered regular holiday, but the government normally declares adjacent dates as special non-working holidays to allow for travel.
    While ancestor veneration is an ancient part of Filipino culture, the modern observance is believed to have been imported from Mexico when the islands (as part of the Spanish East Indies) were governed from Mexico City as part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain.[citation needed] During the holiday, Filipinos customarily visit family tombs and other graves, which they then repair and clean. Entire families spend a night or two at their loved ones’ tombs, passing time with card games, eating, drinking, singing and dancing – activities that would be considered improper in some cultures. Prayers such as the rosary are often said for the deceased, who are normally offered candles, flowers, food and even liquor. Some Catholic Chinese Filipino families additionally offer joss sticks to the dead, and observe customs otherwise associated with the hungry ghost festival.

    This page was last modified on 28 August 2015, at 22:46.

  2. >> In this materialistic and vapid age, commemoration of death and the dead has been almost all but forgotten, glossed over or outright ignored by the many.

    And so it should be, Grimwald. While you are correct that we should acknowledge death as a natural and inevitable part of the cycle of life, the idea of sitting around with buried corpses once a year doesn’t appeal to me very much.

    A dead body is nothing more than a collection of organic molecules that needs recycling. Putting a stone over the top of it and pretending that that place on the earth somehow represents the person who was loved and now is gone is a bad thing: it has vaguely pagan undertones, and is pointless at best.

    The Chinese of the previous century brought their country to its knees by creating vast cities full of the dead, taking up valuable land that could have been used for farming or habitation. There were literally more graves than houses. Possibly the only good thing to come out of the Cultural Revolution was the destruction of this ancestor-fetish.

    Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.

  3. Do you honestly believe a person would be happy in a total fiction which other people wish to create? What reason would he/she have to live? What other people are offering him/her is a memory, something to cherish, not to live in. It is part of our life cycle that we accept the death of those we love. A person must come to terms with his/her grief. He/She must not cover it or hide away from it. You see, we are mortal. Our time in this universe is finite. That is one of the truths that all humans must learn.

  4. The dead are dead, period.
    I remember this episode on farscape wherein they featured a “grave planet” and it existed just for the purpose of holding the dead just because hynerians did not prefer living with “decomposing corpses” underneath them.
    When it comes to funerals and graves, is where i admire muslims, because they do handle their dead in a very proper manner. Within 24 hours of death (normal cases of course), the body is to be buried. No lamay or corpse-viewing. The body is buried wrapped in white cloth, laid to rest on what most christians consider a pauper’s grave, with only a few rocks (or whatever stone block) to mark it. Take note that everyone gets to be buried this way – even the king does not get a fancy mausoleum – because they rightfully believe that in death, we are all equal. In fact this is the way i want to go, just in case i cant afford a cremation. Then the site is never visited again because, hey, nothing is left there except decomposing flesh (that will eventually turn to dust) and bones.

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