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Slovakia enters pensive silence around Halloween, but you would be wrong to think that it is accompanied by a lack of activity.

All Saints that falls on November 1 is a national holiday.

The public holiday created space and time for Slovaks to shift their attention to those that came before them.

In Slovakia, this is not a time for parties and masks, but rather a time to pause and reflect.

Children, youth, adults and seniors alike are pulled to cemeteries to pay respects to their ancestors by a force that is much older than the establishment of the holiday. It is older than their deceased loved ones and even older than the Christianity that dominates the region.

Slovaks make their way to graveyards, some travel for hours on end to fulfill a duty of visiting the graves, tidying them up and adorning them with flowers, wreaths and candles.

The cemeteries that flicker with a light of thousands of candles for a few nights are a reminder of an ancient legacy.

The Old Slavs, the predecessors of modern-day Slovaks, held this time of year in high regard. It was believed that the door that separates the world of the living from the world where the souls of the deceased reside, opens just a little bit to allow communication between them.

It is also a time that Morena, the goddess of winter and the guardian of the dead, takes over to rule the world until the end of winter. To make sure the spirits of the ancestors are kept happy and Morena was pleased, people used to decorate their graves with twigs and branches and light fires to allow the souls to not just pay a visit to their living relatives and also to return to their realm after that.

The contemporary custom of lighting candles and tending to the graves is not a far cry from the old practice. Indeed, the native culture did not disappear with the arrival of Christianity in the 9th century. Rather, it was absorbed into the new religion and thanks to that, these customs were preserved until today.

Join us in the time of these old rituals and dedicate a moment or two to your forefathers and foremothers, for their courage, their love, their care and the stories they shared with you.

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