Death and birth are parts of the natural continuum. Light and darkness are one participation; we walk the earth in their occurrences. Flowers and dirt. Love and grief. Nectar and skulls. We embrace each parallelism. It is the law of our existence. There is no one without the other.
True, human relationships end with death. We grieve but we go on living. Our lives do not end with a loved one’s goodbye. Only our lives will be changed. The universe continues in its spin.
Halloween marks the times we think of those who are no longer with us in their physical presence. We visit their graves, offer them flowers and their favorite food, invite them to join us. In spirit they do. In many ways they do; a gentle breeze whips and your face is caressed. It’s a pure expression of one family’s love and faith.
This is a common practice in Spain—observed in the Philippines since the Spanish colonization period—and in some parts of the United States, as well as in other countries solidly influenced by Roman Catholicism. Other Christian denominations such as the Anglican Church, Episcopal, Evangelical, Lutheran, and Protestants also observe Halloween rituals.
Allhallowtide, as Halloween was called, was first observed in 1471. The word is derived from the Old English halig (holy) and tide (time or season).
Halloween today is a three-day commemoration of the departed starting from the evening of October 31, All Saints’ Day on November 1, and All Souls’ Day on November 2.
During the olden days, Christians were persecuted for their faith. Those who died, starting with the beheading of John the Baptist, were called saints. A day for each one who died keeping his faith was a hallowed day. It came to a point where the saints outnumbered the days in their calendar so that only one day in a year was set aside to honor all those who died martyrs.
During the 8th century, Pope Gregory designated November 1 as the day to honor all those saints.
The wearing of costumes, believed to ward off ghosts and lingering hostile spirits, began in 1585 in Scotland. Costumes were patterned after frightful supernatural or folklore beings. By the 1930s, costumes were representations of characters in the movies, literature, and present-day people and objects based on their political and cultural considerations. Most preferred styles are Gothic, preferably in black, and occult—long hair dyed black, lips and nails also in black.
Punk fashion made its way to the Halloween spirit with classic punk hairstyle and clothing, mohawk and liberty spikes, shaved heads, metal studs on the face, tongue and ears, fish net stockings, elaborate make-up, and other horror images.
Borrowing from European traditions, Americans acquired the Halloween customs and their accompanying superstitions, i.e., black cats prowling in the night, carving jack-o-lanterns, wearing costumes, and trick or treating. American kids go house to house and ask for food or money.
Halloween is celebrated in the Philippines in much the same way. There are places with more superfancy rituals and ways to make the event something to look forward to each year.
In the Poblacion district of Makati, “Takutan sa Burgos” has been, for years, a grand street party of fun and wicked entertainment. Each one is primed to get some share of the goosebumps. It’s a community affair, and the little bars and clubs along P. Burgos Street come alive and everyone has his fill of make-believe gores, beers, street food, music from live bands, and cash rewards for the most outlandish costume.
“Takutan sa Burgos” is a Halloween tradition that easily provides a boisterous welcome and swift escape from all of the past months’ unpleasantness and make us look forward to the next big Christmas holidays.
Past midnight, the “Takutan sa Burgos” ends and everyone settles down to sleep, or have a sobering cup of coffee, or have another good-time beer drinking. The props are disassembled, the costumes put away, the streets littered with the previous night’s siomai cups and barbecue sticks. And empty soft drink plastic bottles listlessly stream along where the new morning’s wind blows.
Photos by Diana B. Noche