Saturday 5pm, drinking a cup of tea in my PJs and staring through my bedroom window. The street lights have already been on for an hour, casting light on the snow, causing it to glitter. This would’ve been a typical Saturday afternoon if it weren’t for one small detail. I was about to leave my house and visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site to witness a Swedish tradition that dates back to the middle ages. I was going to Skogskyrkogården, which translates to forest cemetery, to witness Alla helgons dag, the day of all saints.
Alla helgons dag celebration serves as a remembrance of all saints, including those who do not hold a place in the calendar of saints. On that occasion candles are lit to remember all of the souls and shed light on the path to the great beyond of our dearly departed ones.
Over the years, the date of the holiday has seen several changes. Originally celebrated on November 1st it got changed to the first Sunday in November, and remained so until 1953 when it was finally decided to celebrate it on a Saturday between October 31st and November 6th.
Holger Motzkau 2010, Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons (cc-by-sa-3.0)
I put my winter jacket on and got on a metro to Skogskyrkogården. A few stops later I arrived at my destination. I slowly made my way through a crowd of people on their way to pay respect to their dearly departed ones. I followed a dark forest path straight to the cemetery gate. My feelings were mixed. I had no idea what awaited beyond that heavy black gate…
As soon as I entered, I saw candles of various sizes and shapes glowing behind the forest trees and along the path. People gathered around candles arranged in the shape of rings and silently appreciated the sight, holding hands with their loved ones. My mind entered a state of complete serenity unequalled by anything I had previously experienced. Open your calendar and mark the Saturday between October 31st and November 6th for a visit to Skogskyrkogården and see for yourselves!
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