Last night was Halloween and I bought a ton of candy to pass out for Trick or Treating. This year, the goblin count was kind of low and now I’m left here with about 10 pounds of brightly wrapped chocolates and sugary treats. I always think I’m going to run out of candy and buy about 5 more pounds the day before… just in case. So today, off the treats will go to offices, schools and where ever else I can pass it on to prevent me from eating it all over the next few days!
The day after Halloween is All Saints’ Day, also known as All Hallows’ Day, which is a Christian festival celebrated in honor of all the saints, known and unknown. In many historically Catholic countries, All Saint’s Day is a national holiday. In most Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries, All Saints Day is celebrated with great pageantry.
In Mexico, it is also called the Day of the Innocents, honoring deceased children and infants, and kicks off the week-long celebration of the Day of the Dead. In Lisbon, Portugal, children celebrate the Pão-por-Deus, and go door to door where they receive cakes, nuts and pomegranates – believed to be the basis of the trick-or-treating tradition in the U.S.
In Austria, Belgium, France, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Spain, and American cities such as New Orleans people take flowers to the graves of dead relatives.
In Poland, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Finland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Lithuania, Croatia, Austria, Romania, Moldova, Hungary and Catholic parts of Germany, the tradition is to light candles at those graves.
In addition to celebration of those who passed before us, I also think of those who are the saints who are living among us. Every day, in my work at hospice, I encounter saints. Those who are suffering with life limiting illness and disfigured due to cancer or other illnesses, but still have the ability to smile. Those who are caring for those loved ones – without any regard for themselves, and those healthcare workers who go the extra mile to make someone just a bit more comfortable in their end of life journey. These are the saints that will go unrecognized, and who will go about their kindness and generosity without any thought of payback or notoriety. They do it because it’s right, because they choose to love instead of hate, they open their hearts to compassion and the possibilities that surround it.
These “saints” keep me going every day in working with the dying. They inspire me to do better, to not only show up, but to be the best I can be for my patients. It shows me the goodness in this world we live in, despite our state of affairs in politics and our sometimes divided and violent environment we are exposed to every day when we watch the news or read the newspapers.
So let’s celebrate each other’s kindness, compassion and generosity today and open our hearts to opportunities to help others in their struggles, whatever that may be.
Happy Saints’ Day to all…