While you’re buying Halloween candy to pass out to neighborhood children, or checking out the scary costumes or the horror movies popping up at the movie theater, do you ever stop and think what Halloween is all about? It’s more than just fun sized candy bars and costumes. Halloween used to be known as All Hallows Eve, a time to remember and honor loved ones who had passed. So Halloween didn’t start out to be scary at all!

For many cultures, the end of October is a time to remember and celebrate loved ones who have passed, such as All Souls Day, Day of the Dead or All Hallows Eve (also known as Halloween!). In China, people honor their ancestors for a whole month called “ghost month.” All of these traditions honor those who have passed and give people ways to connect with them. Sometimes those connections are in offerings of food. Sometimes it is prayer, and sometimes, like in China, it is messages written on special paper and burned to make sure they get through.

Over human history, the traditions have taken different forms, but they are usually happy and positive occasions. They are celebrations of life. During these celebrations, people can honor their loved ones and remember that they are never really gone. It is a way to reconnect and celebrate the people you love. Why not borrow from these traditions or start some of your own?

Sometimes, you can keep up a tradition our loved one started, and that can be a way to stay connected. A friend of mine tells me her father always loved Halloween. “He would wait at the door in his wheelchair, ready to greet the neighborhood children. When his hands were too weak to pass out candy, he kept a bowl on a small table and invited the children to take what they liked. He loved asking them about their costumes and pretending to be scared. Whenever Halloween comes around, our family shares stories about him, and we always buy his favorite candy…Hershey’s Dark Chocolate bars. And even though we can pass out the candy, we still keep the bowl on a table and let the kids help themselves.” By keeping her dad’s traditions going, my friend feels connected to him. “It’s as if he’s with us every Halloween!”

Another friend always bakes her dad’s favorite pumpkin cookies. “He always liked them better if they were a little bit overdone, so I keep a few in the oven a little longer every year. And those cookies don’t get decorated because he didn’t like icing. My son always shows them off to his friends when we’re done: ‘These are Grandpa’s!’” Everyone gets one, and we laugh and talk about our favorite memories. It’s just one of the ways we keep him with us.”

Buying a loved one’s favorite candy or making their favorite sweet treat is a great way to remember them and remind them that they are in our hearts, every day. During the Day of the Dead, people share a meal in honor of their loved ones. There are so many ways to stay connected with those we love who are in Heaven. But there’s no reason to limit that to one day or two days or even one month out of the year. You can use these traditions as reminders that you can feel close and connected to your loved ones throughout the year, any season, and any time you want to.

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