Every time of the year has its own traditions, and nowadays in the Northern hemisphere, it´s time for the autumn ones.
In Cáceres (Spain), where I was born and raised, the first day of November is known as “chestnuts day”. It´s All Saints day, which is followed by All Souls day, when many families visit the cemeteries to remember the loved ones who are no longer here.
When I was a child we didn´t know anything about Halloween, or Diwali, or even the Mexican Dia de los Muertos traditions. And my family doesn´t usually visit the cemetery. But what we did do every year around this time was roasting chestnuts, so yummy!
As years go by and we get older, we have the option to continue certain traditions, park them if they no longer make much sense to us, or transform them according to what we consider important. I keep many good memories (and a stack of photos, developed on paper!) from my secondary school and college times, when our group of friends used to go out on a trip to a nearby field to roast chestnuts. Then years later, when we arrived in Ireland, we were fascinated by the Halloween celebrations, especially in their most original celtic version, which includes bonfires, as well of other traditions that had arrived from Noth America, like trick or treating or carving pumpkins.
But even here in Ireland and surrounded by Halloween spirit, almost every year we still get together with a handful of irreducible Spaniards to celebrate a “castanyada”, as the Catalans call it, sometimes having a really hard time trying to find chestnuts to roast 😃 Though in reality it doesn´t matter, the chestnuts are just one more excuse to get together, the same way that we get together at the beginning of the summer to celebrate Saint John and “skip over the bonfire”.
Now in more recent years, thanks to living in a multicultural neighbourhood and having work colleagues from India, we have also learned about the tradition of Diwali, the triumph of light over darkness, which makes a lot of sense at this time of the year when the days get shorter and the nights seem to last forever. We have just changed the clocks here in Europe, next week it will be America´s turn, and the dark evenings seem to invite us all to enter hibernation mode.
That´s why I Iove Diwali lights, Halloween lights and even Christmas lights (despite it being a bit too early for those), I think they add a spark of joy at such a grey time of the year… At the end of the day, deep down, everything comes back to the same; lights and shadows, hope in seeing that darkness is temporary, and that better times are definitely coming.
We keep traditions because they give us a sense of familiarity, of comfort, of security. But as it happens with everything in life, if we take them too seriously, they can end up becoming a source of stress rather than a source of enjoyment, so let me leave you with a couple of quotes I like about this topic:
What about you? What traditions, new or old, do you have planned for this autumn?