Honouring the dead

This blog post is a bit late, it should really have come already at the start of November, but for reasons it has taken far too long to finish. Never mind, what better way to utilize your coffee break at work than to do a final read-through of a blog draft and finally push the “publish” button?

It is about the day us Swedes refer to as Alla Helgons Dag, often confused and combined with Halloween. Or rather, it is about what this day means to me.


Through childhood and the teenage years the tradition in our family was as it is for many Swedish families. On Alla helgons dag us relatives got together for a calm and pleasant meal or fika (typical Swedish concept, look it up!), and once the day had grown dark we wandered together to the cemetery. There we located the graves of relatives who were no longer with us, we lit candles and spent a few minutes contemplating those who had gone before.

It was beautiful and solemn. Sometimes a little spooky, but mostly just peaceful.

That was then, before I had any idea of where my own path lie, before my spiritual needs had surfaced and the point of such traditions seemed to only be about giving relatives a reason to meet up.

And now? Alla helgons is one of my favourite days of the year, in all its simplicity and depth.

It is a day, and night, that anchors us in the flow of time. For a moment we lift our heads out of the blurred passing of days to see how we are links in a far longer chain. We honour those who went before us, become aware of the people who were just as us – living, breathing, real. They are us and we are them, separate but always connected.

In practical terms, what has changed since I was a child? Surprisingly little. Me, my husband and my mother met, had a good meal and looked a bit at old photographs. Then as darkness fell we ventured into the old cemetery in the middle of town, made our way on paths lit by flaming lanterns and candles, joined the hundreds of people who were also out on the same mission, trickling through the burial grounds. We lit candles and placed flowers, talked about the dead, talked to the dead. It was beautiful, as always.

Once we got home me and the husband continued on our own, simple time of relaxation, family time. Before night was over we ventured out into the dark to honour the ancestors, not only those we still remember by name, those whose graves we still find, but also all the others. By word and intent connecting with them across the flow of time.

This is what this holy day means to me. A day to honour those who came before us. A day to connect with those we can no longer touch. A day to anchor us in the greater existence.

Whoever said it was about death?

It’s about existence.

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