Malta does not celebrate America's version of Halloween
but does observe November 1st and 2nd - All Saints Day and All Souls Day.
It is the only spiritual holiday of the year when all the devoutly
religious go to the cemetery to visit their departed ancestors!
The local confectioners make special cookies/biscuits in the shape of a leg
bone (looks rather like a Milk Bone dog biscuit with white icing),
and these are sold in the local shops.
I've never been to Mexico to witness their festive "Day of the Dead"
celebrations...but from what I've read, their celebration for Nov. 1 & 2
far exceeds what happens here in Malta...nonetheless, I enjoyed going to
the local cemetery and seeing almost every grave with at least one, if
not several, bouquets of flowers on them...and the long walkway up to the
cemetery gates (about the length of a city block) ...lined with flower
vendors, all urgently entreating each visitor to buy *their* flowers.
Addolorata Cemetery is a large city of silent inhabitants, rising to a
pinnacle crowned by a gothic chapel, which is visible from quite a distance...
You'll see it as we drive from the airport to your hotel.
My father is buried there...as well as my grandmother...my godfather...and
probably countless other relatives whom I don't even know!!!
The cemetery isn't like the ones we're used to in the USA, with lots of grass
and headstones covering a basically flat landscape....here it's more like an
open-air sculpture museum, with paved promenades traversing raised
embankments of graves terracing the hillside, punctuated with plantings
of evergreen trees and mausoleums...an interesting historical/anthropological
mix of modern-day memorials (which always look 'too new' to me and a little
'kitsch', adorned with plastic flowers...long lasting for the eternally departed!...
and many displaying oval framed photos of the resting relatives) cheek by
jowel with the very beautiful, exquisitely sculpted Victorian statues of
religious figures, angels, or grieving widows and mourning children.
One wishes they could speak, and tell of the people they're commemorating,
and the relatives who conceived and commissioned their creation.
I bought flowers from a young woman who was astute and attentive, but
didn't 'push' quite so hard to get my business. She was gentle, and made
eye contact...which was also gentle. I was feeling annoyed with myself
for not having brought a plastic container for water...but then the other
'little voice' in my head took over...and assured me "Never mind!...you'll
find what you need!...It will be provided for you!...Don't spoil the moment
by getting upset....and you won't have to be a Grave Robber, either!"
...and sure enough, after just a little looking, I found an empty plastic
bottle, with no flowers in it...and knew it was alright for me to 'borrow'
it. Next came the search for water. I hadn't been to the cemetery for
several years...and my memory was a little rusty...there are water pipes
running all through the cemetery, for the convenience of the families bringing
flowers to their relatives' grave sites... I just had to find one! I asked a couple
of people, who didn't know...and finally spotted a water pipe, running along the
side of a wall. I followed it, and soon found a fawcet, and filled my container
with water. Mission Accomplished...I walked slowly back to my father's
gravesite, arranged his flowers, brushed the larch needles from the slab...
and sat quietly for a half hour or so, thinking about his life, and his mother
(my grandmother) whom I never knew (but for whom I am named)...wondering
what she was like, whether we would have liked each other, if we had known
one another...wondering if the little gold medal that I found in my mother's
jewelry box (after her death) had been a present from this grandmother to me,
sent on news of my birth... I chose to wear that little medal today...just in case
it was a gift from my Granny Clotilde.
All of a sudden I was moved by the urge to leave a present...
to do something that would leave *my* mark on this gravesite.
Everyone had brought flowers...I had, too. But now I wanted to do something
different. What could it be?...I looked around, and then I knew what it would
be...and I started collecting... It didn't take long before I had several dozen
small round Larch cones...and carefully, on the white marble slab I constructed
a spiral of Larch cones...to acknowledge the spiral of life which was passing
from my great uncles, to my grandmother, to my father, and now to me...
The little voice inside my head piped up again...alerting me to notice that
it was getting dark! I know they lock the gates of the cemetery at dusk....
and I wasn't really prepared to spend the night!...better make tracks! I didn't
see anyone else around!!! Hurried 'Goodbyes' to the ancestors...with thanks and
acknowledgements of their gifts to me....and a brisk walk, downhill, to the
gates of Addolorata...only one was still open...with several attendants talking
jovially among themseslves, waiting for the last stragglers (probably me!).
I was glad I had gone to the cemetery...
(I was glad not to be spending the night in the cemetery!)...
I was glad I had participated in this old tradition of honoring the ancestors...
I was glad that I appreciated the history of this island
and the history of my ancestors, and wished I knew more about these people
whose names I barely know...but nonetheless, they are all a part of me,
and I a part of them...and their chemistry revolves through me...evolves
through me...until eventually it will be *my* turn to become an ancestor...
and so the spiral keeps on turning...
Goddess Tours to Malta
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