Pumpkins, spiders and zombies galore! Halloween is coming up. Did you know that the original Hallowmas, (the evening before the Christian festival of All Hallows) was a time to remember deceased loved ones or saints. It had nothing to do with vampires, ghosts or Egyptian mummies. Even if you don’t believe in an afterlife, most of us take flowers to relatives’ graves, or keep photos and mementoes of people and pets we once shared our lives with. It seems strange to think of the dead only on one particular day of the year; not many days go by when I don’t think of the people and animals I have loved and lost. This article on Open Learn gives insight into the original meaning of All Hallows.
I’ve always felt quite at home in graveyards. On the whole, I find the living more problematic than the dead. One of my favourite quiet places in Amsterdam is the graveyard, Huis te Vraag in Oud Zuid. It has the same tranquillity that can be found in a rambling country churchyard in England. Walking amongst the overgrown ivy and looking at the lichen-covered headstones fills me with peace, as if I’ve stumbled through some magical door into another world. The hubbub of the city has repeatedly tried but failed to encroach on this oasis of stillness. Spring, summer, autumn, winter it’s hauntingly beautiful throughout the seasons. There was some talk of it being sold but that is thankfully no longer on the cards. The website Huis te Vraag is being revamped but the graveyard is open to visitors on Tuesdays thru Fridays from 11am-5pm. Closed on Sundays and Bank Holidays. Address is, Rijnsburgstraat 51, 1059 AT Amsterdam.