Sunday is “Hallowe’en” – shortened form of All Hallows Eve or All Saints Eve – the evening before All Saints Day. It has its inevitable “Trick or Treat” theme which we imported from the United States. I am not sure I understand the meaning behind “Trick or Treat! I know I may be prejudiced but my preference would be for the old Scottish custom of “guising”. I remember as a child getting dressed up in weird clothes to go guising. Guising is the shortened form of “disguise”. The tradition was that you dressed up in a way that disguised who you were so that the “ghoulies and ghosties” that were set free at Hallowe’en could not recognise you and come and get you! But “guising” was more than that. In small groups children went round knocking at doors and asking “dae ye want any guisers missus? If you were invited in you had to perform either as a group or individually – sing, recite a poem, tell a story. When everyone had had a turn at doing something the “missus” would hand over some money or lollies or cake – which was gathered and divided later. Lollies were rationed in post-war Britain – so to get lollies was a real treat. So the treat was
in return for the children performing some kind of entertainment. There was nothing about the householder being “tricked”.
It was fun! But looking back I realise that the Hallowe’en customs actually hid the true meaning of the season. The Church provided two days at the beginning of November to remember those who had died. It was a bit of a two-tier system. November 1 st was All Saints Day – when those people who had been made saints were remembered. November 2 nd was All Souls Day when the ordinary people who had died were remembered! The value of these days, when there were special Church Services, was it gave people a chance to remember and talk about those who had died. And I think that’s a very healthy thing to do.
We don’t talk about the dead much. Maybe its because memories are too painful or maybe its because we want to forget. Death and grief are not always at the top of the conversation list. Yet grief is something we all experience in different ways and for different reasons. Whenever we lose something we value we experience some form of grief. We might feel sad when a family heirloom gets broken beyond repair. We feel grief at the loss of a job or a loss of health. But most often we associate grief with the death of someone we know and love. Grief is the gift we are given to express the deep feelings that emerge in us when we suffer intense loss. It’s a gift – not one that we always want! – that expresses our love for the
person we lose.
On Sunday morning Catriona Cairns and I are going to have a conversation about grief – what it is and how it affects us. We will share something or our knowledge and experience of dealing with grief. Perhaps we might even help to restore some meaning to All Saints and All Souls days.
We look forward to seeing you on Sunday.
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