All Saints Day

Now that Halloween is over, it seems that the only way to go is Thanksgiving. Actually, there is a holiday at the beginning of November. November 1st is the start of All Saints Day which for most people remains in an unfamiliar territory. Call it All Hallows, Day of All the Saints, Solemnity of All Saints or Feast of All Saints, this multinominal holiday honors saints who reached Heaven. Primarily focusing on unknown saints, the origin of this day began with Pope Boniface IV collecting the bones of saints and other remnants in order to rebury them in the Pantheon in Rome on May 13 in 609 AD. Eventually, Christians came to recognize the numerous martyrs and their lives on the anniversaries of their deaths. As the years flew by, canonization of the saints grew in great numbers. Pope Gregory IV officially put a stake on the November 1st as the day of commemoration.

The practice now extends to remembering members of a congregation. Names of churchgoers are read out loud during Mass on All Saints Day as their loved ones remember them. The day and its celebrations vary throughout the world. In some countries, lighting candles by graves marks the remembrance while laying flowers and wreaths is another way. Pope Boniface IV also takes credit for All Souls’ Day on November 2nd.

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In America, Halloween’s orange and black gloss and candy overshadows this day as children trick or treat for the colorfully wrapped squares and circles. Haunted houses find transient tenants for the night and delightfully scarified thrill seekers. The night ends with ghost tours and costume contests. But the night ends in a much simpler way at Oakwood. Driving along the streets inside, handmade vibrant orange ribbons tied into luminous bows  adorn several graves in honor of All Saints Day. So much solace can be found in the sacred day as Robin Simonton, Executive Director of Oakwood Cemetery explains the particulars. Typically held in churches, Oakwood finds that exception in their Mausoleum where the event is held. This year, the St. Mark’s United Methodist Church came by as the Oakwood Community gathered to remember the lives of the people as their names are read aloud.

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“It is a somber remembrance of those we lost. The whole thing is a big community event.”

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Wreaths Across America at Oakwood Cemetery

As I sat down with Sue Purkis, I can tell that a meaningful story is about to unfold. With a smile, she tells me that she is an advocate for Wreaths Across America, an organization dedicated to remember, honor, and teach about our brave military members and veterans. Each December, they lay wreaths on the graves at Arlington National Cemetery and many other veterans’ cemeteries across the country. After creating a chapter of Wreaths Across America at Oakwood Cemetery, she tells me that this venture has been quite successful in the past three years.  Veterans and many of their families dwell in a section known as the Field of Honor where veterans are provided with a white, marble headstone marker by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs free of charge. Oakwood Cemetery’s purpose is to provide a low-cost burial space for veterans and their families while keeping a space that honors the lives of those interred.

Originally from Boston, Massachusetts, Purkis knew about WAA before coming to Raleigh. She considers herself as someone who is interested in cemeteries and also in the preservation aspects. In the past, cemeteries were places where families held picnics and gatherings. As someone who has worked in a hospice setting where taking care of ill and elderly patients were normal, death is not a hidden thing for her. She firmly muses,
“We all deal with it.”

Oakwood is a peaceful place of rest and life for her. When she has time, Purkis volunteers at events such as the North Carolina Science Festival: The Birds and the Bees and the Urn Art & Garden Faire held here. She hopes to see more local events that will create involvement for those who are curious about Oakwood.

On this year’s ceremony for WAA at Oakwood, the goal is to be able to lay more wreaths for all veterans who reside in other sections outside the Field of Honor. In the past, the Girl Scouts came to lay wreaths and Purkis hopes that more of the “next generation” will attend. Moreover, she tells me that if there was full representation from the Army, Navy, Coastguard, Airforce, Marines, and the POWs, she would feel complete and content on this year’s mission.

Oakwood Cemetery will host another Wreaths Across America event on Saturday, December 12, 2015 at 12:00 p.m.

If you have any questions, please call Robin Simonton at 919.832.6077

For those who would like to purchase wreaths this season, please visit:
http:// www.WreathsAcrossAmerica.org

Sponsoring Group ID Number: NC 0016P
Location ID: NC H0FH
Name of Cemetery: Oakwood Cemetery

You can also press on the link below:
http://give.wreathsacrossamerica.org/site/TR/NationalWreathsAcrossAmericaDay/General?team_id=8679&pg=team&fr_id=4196

imagePhoto Credit: Sue Purkis