Monday, 15 November 2010
Alla helgons dagen
Swedes love to proclaim their secularism. For a country which separated from the Church 10 years ago (my husband's place of birth in his passport is not a town but a parish), which educational system is not laïc (every school performs a nativity play for Christmas), where virtually everyone is baptised and marries in church (priest are considered as state officers and can lawfully perform weddings), I have to say my point of view - of a French person raised in the pure atheist tradition - is slightly different from theirs. Over the years, I realised we just have different definitions of what is religion.*
Alla helgons dag, or All saints' day, and it was once again the occasion for me to witness the celebration of a Christian tradition - for my greatest pleasure, I have to confess. While in France, you will almost only find a few pensioners standing in silent prayers at their nearest and dearest's graves the morning of the Toussaint, in Sweden, entire families go to the cemetery on the Saturday evening between the 31st October and the 6th November. They light candles on their relatives' graves like we would leave sheaves of flowers. Unfortunately, given the mediocrity of my evening pictures, I will only show you the cemetery during the afternoon...
I never imagined there could be some much joy and happiness in remembering the deads. Their was life and beauty in this cemetery that day, and it was completely devoid of its usual inhospitality.
*For more debate on secularism in Scandinavia, see Atheism and Secularity: Volume 1: Issues, Concepts, and Definitions by Phil Zuckerman.