The season of mists has arrived, bringing not only dewy morning melancholy, but also poetry and inspiration. The evenings become longer, the trees slowly drop their vividly colored foliage. The changing nature gives more time to reflect and remember not only the days that have passed, but also the loved ones who used to be around.
Here in Lithuania, we have an ancient tradition to pay our respects to the people who are no longer with us at this time of the year...
A longstanding religious public holiday, also called the “All Souls day”, “All Saints day” and “Remembrance day”, it falls on the 1st and 2nd of November. Dating back as far as the 16th century, it honors the souls that have departed and is deeply rooted in Lithuanian culture.
Historical records have revealed that in the month of November all of the manual field labor used to be completed and the harvest reaped. People would then finally get a chance to slow down, which also meant escaping the bustle of their daily lives to visit the cemeteries and tend to the graves.
Nowadays, people not only go and visit the graveyard on this occasion. Flowers are placed and candles are lit, which makes for a spectacular view when the sun sets. The atmosphere becomes mystical, with the tiny lights of candles flickering all around, piercing the darkness of the upcoming winter.
The light is said to bring back the souls of the people who used to walk the face of the earth. That’s why everyone brings at least one candle. And sometimes people even carry a few, to light them on someone’s forgotten place of eternal rest.
But there’s an even older, almost supernatural tradition, dating back centuries. After visiting the cemetery, the whole family would gather for an elaborate dinner, even the most distant relatives would all meet up. People would share memories of their beloved ones. Then, after dinner, a generous amount of food would be left outside and a candle lit on the window sill as a way to honor the departed. It was believed that with the guiding light in the window, the spirits could not only find their way back home, but also nourish themselves upon their brief return to Earth.
Though this celebration may seem dark and grim, there’s something poetic in the air on November 1st. Perhaps it’s the scent of the leaves on the ground or the sound of the howling northern winds…
But the sea of lit candles all around the place of eternal rest brings hope.
The warm light can become a source of inspiration to help people get through this sometimes eerie period of the year. And by observing this mystical holiday, we can’t help but feel grateful for the time that we’ve been blessed with.