Tiptoe Through the Tombstones

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.

Tranquil Places
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.

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About susancarey

Writer and teacher living in Amsterdam. Trying to be mindful and occasionally succeeding!
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9 Responses to Tiptoe Through the Tombstones

  1. gillianbrown1 says:

    I love graveyards, find them very tranquil, though I’m not too keen once darkness falls! This one looks beautiful. Does anyone remember when it used to be turnips we carved out for Halloween, not pumpkins? I’m sure anyone Irish will.

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    • susancarey says:

      Thanks for commenting, Jill. I tend to stay away from graveyards once darkness falls! I don’t remember carved out turnips but I do remember apple bobbing and the Flour Game; trying to grab a sweet with your mouth from a saucer of flour.

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  2. Sherri says:

    Wonderfully atmospheric photos Susan. Interestingly I just posted photos of a walk through an English churchyard! This looks like a fascinating place to visit.

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  3. pfornari says:

    Love the photos! Strange how I had never connected Hallowe’en (a feast that was not celebrated in my family) with All Souls’ Day which falls on 2 November and is a very big deal in Italy, when everyone goes to the cemetery (or many do) after celebrating All Saints on 1 November. I used to love All Saints at my boarding School, and felt it should be separated from the miserable Old Souls!

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    • susancarey says:

      Thanks, Paola for commenting. It’s interesting to hear about Italy’s customs. In Victorian England people used to have picnics in graveyards. Strange how are attitudes to graveyards have changed so much. Highgate Cemetery in London is my all time favourite!

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  4. Love the photos & blog… Will venture out & have a look today 😉

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    • susancarey says:

      Hope you ‘enjoy’ the tranquillity of the place. I never knew it was even there for years until a friend who is a Buddhist took me there and we did some drawing together. There’s also a nice bench just below the churchyard where you can sit and look out over the fields.

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