Partly due to my commitment to give my time and talents, partly due to my passion for the subject matter, I led the creation of a new event last October at Saugatuck Congregational Church, UCC where my wife Alison is pastor. Our church had held a wonderful homecoming event in early September 2012 outside on the grounds and there was interest in doing more events like it. I floated the idea of holding a Halloween event, except with a bit more meaning and substance than one so often finds in the plastic and sugar commercial orgy of the “Halloween Season.” Everyone involved in the conversation immediately said, “Yes!” and All Hallows’ Fest was born. It went well, given that we tossed it together in the span of a couple of weeks. One of the ideas we set aside was to use the church cemetery, which is just a couple of blocks away and can also be reached via a short hike through a park and over…wait for it…Deadman Brook. This year we featured it.
We held the 2nd Annual All Hallows’ Fest this past Sunday. It began at Evergreen Cemetery with the creation of a “Memory Grove.” Participants were encouraged to bring photos, drawings, sayings, or objects that symbolized someone whose life they want remembered. They could also use the materials on site. We provided base objects (picture frames, bird houses, large letters, etc.) for the participants to adorn with the materials and then they hung their completed object on one of five “trees” my wife and sons helped me build. About 30 people participated in creating the installation that evening. We put flyers in the neighbors mailboxes letting them know that something unusual was about to appear in the cemetery and that the installation will be there until November 1. We also invited them to add their own objects during the week. I visited the site today to add some explanatory signage that reads:
Halloween is a pop culture economic bonanza in our country, but its origin and rich themes are often overlooked. The name “Halloween” is a contraction of All Hallows’ Evening. Hallows’ is shortened from hallowed, meaning sacred. Thus, Halloween actually means “sacred evening.” Sacred because it was originally a time for remembering loved ones who have died. Holidays based on the idea of remembering and celebrating departed friends and relatives are found in cultures around the globe. Additionally, many of these holidays occur at the end of the harvest season. The ancient origins of Halloween and related holidays are inspired by the cycle of the seasons. As plants withered and shadows lengthened, people labored to prepare for the symbolic death of winter. They feared the cold and silence to come, but knew that the rebirth of spring lay beyond. Thus, Halloween is a thematically rich holiday that explores our very human fear of death and our interest in what lies beyond.
I also took some photos, which I’m pleased to share here: