Samhain Celebration 2016

I always find October weather to be fickle: freezing cold on some days, deceptively warm on others. For someone such as me, who thrives in heat and humidity, such volatile temperature changes usually bring the first inklings of my Seasonal Affective Disorder. Suffering under its full force, I retreat into my home, desiring to shun social activities and responsibilities (though knowing I cannot). But this past weekend, the air warmed. The sunlight coaxed me out from under my blankets. My boyfriend declared it to be, in all likelihood, the last warm weekend of the year, so I decided to make the most use of it. On Samhain Eve, I rose as the morning hour approached eleven–normally a late hour for me, but work had kept me up the night before, so I had allowed myself the luxury of sleeping in. Aware of the ticking clock, I washed and dressed, then began the first of my many tasks for the sacred day.

I removed a package from our freezer, poured oil into a saucepan, and clicked on the stove. Once the oil had heated enough, I threw in sticks of frozen food, a few pieces at a time. Within a few minutes, the distinct aroma of deep frying lumpia filled my apartment. The Philippine equivalent of egg rolls, lumpia fills me with a simple joy, a simple comfort. Served with rice and dipping sauce, it easily connects me to my parents’ culture. Vinegar and soy sauce flows over my tongue, ocean salt fills my nose, summer heat beats down on my shoulders and back–a mix of memory and distant knowledge. I haven’t been to the Philippines since I was very small, so food is all I have from this heritage.

Once finished in the kitchen, I set a plate for myself at my work desk. Positioned on the windowsill above it is the ancestor shrine, decorated with a false crocodile skull, seashells, and a picture of my great-grandfather. I lit a candle and sat to eat. I savored the lumpia and rice with every bite, looking ahead to the spirit reading/consult that Ariadna promised me. Our meeting is less than two weeks away. I thought about bringing wine in compensation for her service and filed that mental note away for later.

After lunch, I left the apartment to enjoy the weather–and to vote for the next United States President. Initially, I hadn’t considered early voting, but then I realized how appropriate it is to vote on Samhain Eve. After all, our ancestors are not simply those who share our blood; we have cultural, historical, and spiritual ancestors as well. Mine range from Lapu-Lapu, the Visayan hero who repelled Ferdinand Magellan from the Philippines in 1521 at the Battle of Mactan, to America’s Founding Fathers, who established the country of my birth. I had already honored my blood and cultural ancestors with a traditional meal, so I downloaded the full Hamilton musical soundtrack onto my phone and drove to my polling station.

Despite the crowd of people, voting took only a few minutes of my time. For the rest of the day, I listened to the Hamilton soundtrack as I ran errands, baked cookies, and relaxed at home. Before yesterday, I had only listened to a few songs–the first 11 or so, actually. So I was familiar with the upbeat, hopeful notes of the musical’s opening, but I had not been prepared for the the heartbreaking tragedy in the second half. At home once more, I listened to the last notes of “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story.” I dried unexpected tears and joked with friends that Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton deserves a place on the ancestor shrine. We laughed, but I reiterate: ancestors are not just those linked to us by blood. Those who inspire us, those worthy of honor and remembrance, deserve veneration too.

I went to bed with echoes of the Hamilton musical ringing in my ears.

Look around, look around at how
Lucky we are to be alive right now!

How lucky I am indeed, that my forebears came together in seemingly chaotic, unpredictable ways to bring me to this circumstance. I know I’m luckier than others in this regard. That’s why honoring them is so important to me–not just on Samhain, but on all days.

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