Over the centuries, most cultures and religions have created traditions to commemorate the dead, or to solicit their help, even, sometimes, to appease them. Our Halloween celebrations in North America are perhaps a remnant of the Irish Samhain festival, coming at the end of harvest season and the beginning of a dark and sometimes dangerous winter. The dead may seem especially close then.
The 'Night for All Souls' event at Mountain View Cemetery in Vancouver, British Columbia is a new tradition - a special time to honour the dead with art and music, and with offerings of candles and lanterns, flowers, personal memorials and thought.
I've been attending 'Night for All Souls' since it was started in 2005 by Paula Jardine. I'm not sure what all my relatives would think of this, but I like it. It's always felt a very peaceful time, a time for reflection, but also for sharing, if one wants.
My grandpa Rogers worked at Mountain View and I like to think he and grandma would be happy to know so many more people visit the cemetery at this time. My mum would be very interested - she was keen to know more about other cultures, and was especially interested in Mexico, where the Day of the Dead at the very beginning of November is an important holiday. Dad would think it was all daft (but he'd be happy to see I'm remembering them, all the same).
Paula Jardine, a Canadian artist now living in Victoria, B.C., is Mountain View's 'artist in residence'. She creates events like this which blend art, music and dance with community and purpose and was the founding artistic director of the Public Dreams Society, which fosters events like the 'Parade of Lost Souls'.
This year, A Night for All Souls at Mountain View is October 25, 2008 from 6 to 10 pm.
"It will be a family friendly sanctuary of beauty for tender feelings, with fires to warm us, music to uplift us, tea to refresh us and materials to create personal memorials for our dead."
There are workshops during October so that people can fashion particular kinds of offerings or memorials, if they like. And, this year, after 'All Souls', from October 26 to November 2nd, artists will be at the cemetery each evening and so there will be opportunities for smaller, less organized gatherings each night.
A Night for All Souls, Mountain View Cemetery: http://vancouver.ca/commsvcs/NONMARKETOPERATIONS/MOUNTAINVIEW/allsouls/index.htm
Paula Jardine, artist: http://islandsinstitute.com/gallery/Jardine/frontpage.htm
Public Dreams Society: http://www.publicdreams.org/