Honoring our Ancestors

Autumn shows us life returns to earth. Two holidays at this time of year remind us of our relationships to the deceased. From October 31st-November 2nd, both Samhain and Día de los Muertos will be happening. These holidays, in their own ways, pay homage to our ancestors. Celebrations of Samhain mark the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter, a darker time of year. At Samhain, offerings are made to people’s ancestors and a place is set for them at the dinner table. Hospitality is extended into the spirit world. Día de los Muertos is celebrated as a joyous remembrance of the people we’ve known. For the holiday, people build altars with the deceased’s favorite things on them, hoping that the spirits will draw near and hear the funny and caring stories told about them. Both holidays, holy days, remind us that our ancestors are always around. 

At both Samhain and Día de los Muertos, the boundary between this world and the spirit world gets thinner. The spirits draw closer. And we respond to them. Samhain is referred to in writing dated to the 10th century. Observing a thousand-year old holiday is a strong way to sustain a legacy with the spirits of your ancestors. Bonfires are also lit, at Samhain, that imitate the spirit of the sun. During Día de los Muertos, people may leave blankets and pillows near graves. They do this so that the spirits of the deceased may rest. It is a celebration of our shared humanity when we recognize the spirits of the people who preceded us. So when the veil between worlds thins, we can remember how we are here together. 

There is a vulnerable quality to winter, as the world gets darker and colder. So, these holidays where we recognize spirits and ask for their protection makes a certain sense. But Samhain and Día de los Muertos can also remind us that those spirits may often have our backs. However you choose to think about this – whether it’s that the spirit of someone you care about still visits you or if it’s that the impact they had on you continues on – there is a woven network in you of all of your ancestors, guardians, and protector spirits. So, when the veil between this world and the spirit world gets thinner, it can be a time to say thanks. The old ones, the deceased ones have seen some things. We can honor what they have known and still know.