Experiencing Allhallowtide in Germany
I had just made a last-ditch candy run for Halloween and on the final turn to get home, I drove past the cemetery in our neighborhood.
But on this evening, Oct. 31 – the normally dim cemetery lit only by entryway motion lights, glittered with an ethereal beauty to the likes of which I had never seen.
Hundreds of delicately flickering lights glowed behind lanterns of red glass, set atop the gravesites and tombstones.
Candy momentarily forgotten, I pulled over and parked alongside the tree-lined road. I walked carefully to the iron railings that bordered this sacred and hallowed place and peered through the bars. The cemetery gates were, of course, open if I wanted to go in, but as I wasn’t fully sure what I was witnessing – the questions of “why all of these lights, and why now?” unanswered, I felt as if I would break whatever magical spell was here if I entered.
I was actually experiencing the first day of Allhallowtide.
Allhallowtide (also known as Hallowtide, Allsaintstide or Hallowmas) is the three-day religious observance of All Saints’ Eve (Halloween), All Saints’ Day (All Hallows’) and All Souls’ Day that runs from Oct. 31 through Nov. 2 each year. Allhallowtide is a time to remember not only our own beloved dead but also the martyrs, saints and Christians that have departed this world.
What most Americans think of as Halloween, is more commonly known in other parts of the world as All Hallows' Eve. Christians traditionally believed that the veil between the material living and dead was at its most thin during this time – and in order to prevent recognition by a soul (or other nefarious creatures), people would don masks and costumes to disguise themselves and confuse the spirits.
Although it garners most of the attention, Halloween is just the first day of this sacred period of remembrance. For some faiths, Roman Catholic especially, All Saints’ Day is a holy day of obligation, and All Hallows’ Day is also a universal Christian holy day.
As I quietly backed away from the cold iron gates and came back to the warm world of the costumed living – the red lanterns weren’t far from my mind. This year, as we make our Halloween preparations again, a walk at dusk on Nov. 1 and 2 are also on my calendar, a quiet poignant reminder of what this season now also means to me.
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