Halloween or All Hallows’ Eve falls on the 31st of October each year. In the Christian calendar, the Church traditionally held a vigil on Halloween when worshipers would prepare themselves with prayers and fasting prior to the holy days on All Saints’ Day on November 1 and All Souls’ Day on November 2, which are days for commemorating the souls of the dead rather than the saints.
In Western traditions, Halloween seems like a party moment for children, and even adults for it’s a time to dress up in costumes, be it creepy, funny, fancy, historical or whoever or whatever it is they imagine to be. It is also a night for a fitting alibi to indulge in as much candy, sweets or even a feast, for that matter, given or received as perks in the “Trick or Treat” tradition.
Filipinos refer to Halloween as “Undas” or “Araw ng mga Patay” (Day of the Dead) or “Araw ng mga Kaluluwa” (All Souls’ Day). A much deeper term that we don’t use as much anymore is “Gabi ng Pangangaluluwa” (All Hallows’ Eve).
In the Philippines, we see Halloween as a three-day marathon of familial activities starting October 31 until November 2. Malls and stores have Halloween specials. Schools and offices have trick or treat celebrations. Entertainment businesses and food establishments also have ghouls, spirits or other scary themes.
At least a week before “Undas”, people flock to the cemeteries to start cleaning up and repainting their loved ones’ tombs in preparation for All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. A family vigil in cemeteries on October 31 is also favored by many, as November 1 is often declared a non-working day and monstrous traffic is to be expected in the streets and highways on this day until November 2. The police force and local authorities are on heightened alert and paying attention not only in cemeteries but also to bus terminals, ports and airports. Many would also travel to their hometowns in the provinces to spend “Undas” with their families and relatives. Instant family reunions are common when relatives gather during these holy days.
There’s a festive feel in cemeteries as street peddlers of all kinds (flowers, candles, balloons, food, snacks, toys, games, costumes, etc.) flock near cemeteries with their wares.
Most Filipinos spend these days lighting candles, offering flowers and prayers for their deceased loved ones and gather in picnic-like scenarios with relatives and/or friends, some groups even pitching tents, right at the tombs or mausoleums. For the Filipino-Chinese folks, their practice include lighting of incense sticks and offering a feast of Chinese delicacies as their tradition of paying respects to their departed kins.
Next to Christmas and New Year celebrations, “Undas” is also a family holiday most of us look forward to. As a family, we remember those who have gone before us and celebrate quality time with the living. It may be due to the strong family ties which is one of the traits Pinoys are known for. As they say, blood is thicker than water. In life and beyond, all are done out of love for the family.
By Leah Catherine, Pilya blogger
Photos courtesy of Leah Catherine
“My parents got my name from a local entertainment magazine. An actress thought she would be giving birth to a baby girl and planned to give her the name. But alas, it was a boy! And Leah Catherine was born, not to celebrities, but to an auto parts saleman and a public school teacher, who grew up in Pateros, a small town in Manila. Currently, I juggle as an associate for a financial institution on weekdays, a homemaker on weekends, a loving mother to my three grown-up children and keeps a hopeful romantic LDR with my husband.”
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