Saturday, November 02, 2013

Hallowmas, All Saints, All Souls, and Day of the Dead


All Hallows or Hallowmas, All Saints and All Souls Day, and Day of the Dead (Día de los Difuntos or Día de los Muertos) continue the celebration from one of harvest to one of celebrating the changing of the light in many cultures across the world.

And just as the origins of Halloween, may have begun with Roman festivals of harvest, but is typically linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-an or sow-in)",which is derived from the Old Irish and means roughly "summer's end" so do the celebrations of All Saints And All Soul's now join the celebration of the Day of the Dead.

The festival of Samhain celebrates the end of the "lighter half" of the year, and beginning of the "darker half", and is sometimes regarded as the "Celtic New Year." It is believed that the border between this world and the otherworld became thin on Samhain, allowing spirits (both harmless and harmful) to pass through. The family's ancestors were honored and invited home whilst harmful spirits were warded off. It is believed that the need to ward off harmful spirits led to the wearing of costumes and masks. Their purpose was to disguise oneself as a harmful spirit and thus avoid harm.

All Saints Day, or All Hallows or Hallowmas, is a Christian feast day celebrated on November 1, or the first Sunday after Pentecost. It a day meant to honor all of the saints, both known and unknown. Because Halloween preceded this feast day, that day actually took it's name from this feast day and thus became "The Eve of All Hallows', and eventually 'Hallowe'en'.

In the Christian West, All Saints Day honors those who have attained beatific vision in heaven, while November 2, All Soul's Day, commemorates the departed faithful who have not been so purified and entered heaven. In the tradition of using holy names taken from the Greek, early names such as All Hallowmas referred to hallowed or saintly, and mas, to the early Christian mass.

The Day of the Dead (Día de los Difuntos or Día de los Muertos) is a holiday celebrated mainly in Mexico and the Mexican immigrant community living in the United States. The holiday is based on the complicated blended cultures of their ancestors, the Aztec and Maya, and the Spanish invaders, layered with Catholicism.

For more than 500 years, the goddess Mictecacihuatl (Lady of the Dead) presided over Aztec harvest rituals using fires and incense, costumes of animal skins, images of their dead and offerings of ceramics, personal goods, flowers and foods, drink and flowers.

The Aztec, Mayan and other indigenous traditions have enriched the Mexican's attitude about death. From these ancestors has come the knowledge that souls continue to exist after death, resting placidly in Mictlan, the land of the dead, not for judgment or resurrection; but for the day each year when they could return home to visit their loved ones. 

Los Dias de Los Muertos is a time for remembering friends, family and ancestors. In the Mexican tradition, people die three deaths. The first death is when our bodies cease to function; when our hearts no longer beat of their own accord, when our gaze no longer has depth or weight, when the space we occupy slowly loses its meaning. The second death comes when the body is lowered into the ground, returned to mother earth, out of sight. The third death, the most definitive death, is "when there is no one left alive to remember us."

The act of preparing an altar by placing photographs, flowers, candles, favorite foods and drink of the loved one provides a special time to remember, and to transform grief into acceptance. The living invite the spirits of the family to return home for a few hours of laughter, tears and memories.

Once the night has passed, and the spirits have returned to their world, the ones remaining know that for another year they have triumphed in the struggle of life and that the only way to celebrate death is to live with courage.

shown throughout:
My own symbolic representation of this celebration. Our dining table set up with some of the traditional crepe paper roses, art cards and figurines as symbolic representations of both life and death, candles to light the way for the dead, goblets of water, candy, and packets of the salt.

By using these symbols to represent the spirit of the dead, we honor them and their courage and ability to survive the physical world and live a life everlasting. We honor these days to symbolically keep the thin wall between us separated during the rest of the year. We remain safe in the present while we remember and honor the past.

And in further celebration, yesterday on All Hallows Eve or Hallowmas:

AAQI: $1,000,000 Goal Reached, and Beyond!  

AAQI Quilt Sales: Houston International Quilt tally from Diane Petersmarck, to date

In Memory: Nell Grace Savikko
born 9-1-1925 St. Martinville, Louisiana
died 9-8-2013 Douglas, Alaska
Love you and miss you, my sweet little mama

Michele Bilyeu blogs With Heart and Hands as she shares a quilting journey through her life in Salem, Oregon and Douglas, Alaska. Sewing, quilting, and wildcrafting, with small format art quilts, prayer flags, and comfort quilts for a variety of charitable programs. And best of all, sharing thousands of links to Free Quilt and Quilt Block Patterns and encouraging others to join her and make and donate quilts to charitable causes.   Help us change the world, one little quilt at a time!


  1. Hi Michelle! I was one of the people who bought a quilt yesterday...very close to the one million mark! It was such great fun to see all those little pieces of art!

    1. Love that, Julie! Bless your wonderful, big, and generous heart!

  2. You write so it! I know you miss your "little mama" and I know her spirit is with you always.


  3. Thank you very much for all your suggestions on this site. Your shares are very interesting and very rewarding. Congratulations to you .

  4. Michele - what a lovely thoughtful post. I'm so sorry for the loss of your dear sweet Mom. I am fortunate to still have my Mom in my life. At 93 she is active and healthy and well loved by many people. Your explanation of the three deaths resonated with me and this is very much the philosophy that my mother has espoused over the years, particularly the part about living on in the memory of others.


Michele Bilyeu blogs "With Heart and Hands" as she journeys between Douglas, Alaska and Salem, Oregon.