By Brittni Henderson
A Halloween loss turned this time of year from spooky to special for me
There was once a time that it seemed completely necessary to purchase an overpriced, polyester replica of some famous celebrity or a “naughty” version of some day job just to wear it one time to an overcrowded Halloween party. Its likely fate would become a dust collector at the back of my closet until someone needed a backup costume idea for another party a year or two later, or worse—it would never be seen again. The cheap plastic accessories that I was so lucky to have received as a part of the deal would either break, get lost, or end up somewhere like the trunk of my car. There would be the occasional costume that could be thrown together with purchases from a consignment shop or even with some items that I already owned, but the most important thing to me every October was to ensure that I had the most clever, creative, and unique costume out of all of my friends. All that really matters is the Instagram photo from my night out, right?
Well, that all changed for me during the fall of 2012. As a brutal storm began brewing over the Atlantic Ocean, my family was facing a hurricane of our own. It was the end of October and as Sandy made her way towards the East Coast, the last thing on my mind was shopping for a Halloween costume. My beloved grandfather was rapidly losing his battle with cancer in a New Bedford hospital as high winds and rain wrecking havoc on the landscape outside. Suddenly, the whole idea of dressing in a cheesy, cheap, and barely scary outfit seemed so unimportant. Grandpa Rob finally lost his battle just a few days before Halloween, just as Sandy made her final impact on the Northeast.
Needless to say, I didn’t participate in any Halloween activities that year. In the years following this loss, I slowly got back in the festivities, but to me they never felt the same. The day will always make me remember the sadness my family faced at that time during 2012, but I always remember that Grandpa Rob would have wanted us to continue to have fun so I do again enjoy creating a special costume each year. It’s the day that follows Halloween, though, that has much more importance to me these days.
El Dia de los Muertos, or The Day of the Dead, is a Mexican holiday celebrated every year on November 1, the day after Halloween. I remember learning about this day in Spanish class throughout my time at Smithfield High School and always thought it was pretty interesting, but never knew it would have such a meaning for me one day. Families and friends across Mexico come together to pray for and support the spiritual journeys of loved ones they’ve lost. At times private altars called “ofrendas” are built to pay homage to the departed, and other times the favorite food, drink, and possessions of the lost friend/family member are delivered to their ultimate resting place.
Celebrating the lives of lost loved ones is much more meaningful than dressing up as a creepy ghoul or goblin to me. I know Halloween isn’t the most serious holiday— especially in today’s society where it becomes just another reason to throw a party—but The Day of the Dead is the day I look forward to the most. It may not be directly related to my family or cultural celebrations, but I use it as a day to remember my grandfather, but others that I’ve lost, too.
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