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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Julian

Passed Heroes Day

Halloween, a celebration in the United States and other Western cultures, has its origins in an ancient Celtic festival called “Samhain”. Samhain marked the beginning of the new year and was a time when it was believed that spirits would return to the world of the living (Britannica).

This celebration was then adopted into Christianity as the holiday “All Hallows’ Eve” (later contracted to Halloween) to mark the night before “All Saints Day” (a day to commemorate all saints) and two nights before "All Souls Day" (a day to remember all those who have passed on). Now the holiday is largely secular with a focus on cavity-inducing candy and elaborate costumes rather than spirits and rituals (Britannica).

Many in the United States have a strained relationship with death - the subject tends to be avoided at all costs. Halloween is far removed from its original purpose so it doesn’t provide an opportunity to engage with the concept of mortality. Often people fear death because it represents the ultimate unknown - what happens after we pass away?

Let’s change our relationship with death by learning what it has to teach us. There is beauty in the idea that our time on this planet is limited. It gives us the motivation to go out and accomplish our goals, allows us to have novel experiences, and reminds us to savor the time we have with our present loved ones. Death also gives us an opportunity to reflect on our memories of the dearly departed and on the meanings we make in our own lives.

NLH created the annual celebration “Passed Heroes Day” (PHD) to commemorate all of our passed loved ones each year, not just once after their passing like a traditional funeral. Through PHD, we rewrite the narrative around death. PHD takes place the first Sunday of June.

The three themes of Passed Heroes Day are intertwined with NLH’s three central themes: Love, Peace & Joy.

  • Love: Sharing our favorite memories of our passed loved ones.

  • Peace: Accepting and embracing the idea that death gives our lives meaning.

  • Joy: Learning to make the most of the time with our present loved ones.

Last year’s PHD also provided an opportunity for our network to connect and celebrate while the fear of uncertainty cast its shadow over the world during the early stages of the pandemic. We held the festivities over Zoom and went around the virtual room sharing our most cherished memories of our passed loved ones. Additionally, our family enjoyed various meals and drinks that reminded us of the dearly departed.

We highly recommend that everyone celebrate PHD in their own way. Here are some suggestions:

  • Schedule a time for family/friends to get together in person or virtually via video chat.

  • Encourage everyone who will be attending to create a list of all of their passed loved ones that they would like to commemorate (pets included!).

  • Gather videos and pictures of your passed loved ones. Perhaps you could create a compilation video or slideshow.

  • Cook food, listen to music, make drinks, play games, etc. that remind you of your passed loved ones so that everyone can share in the experience. See if you can engage all of the 5 senses (Sight, Sound, Touch, Taste, and Smell).

  • Go around the room and have everyone discuss the dearly departed. Topics may include favorite memories and the positive impact they had.

  • Discuss the beauty and meaning of life.


Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "All Saints' Day". Encyclopedia Britannica, 19 Feb. 2020, Accessed 4 May 2021.

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "Halloween". Encyclopedia Britannica, 19 Oct. 2020, Accessed 27 April 2021.

1 Comment

May 16, 2021

Great post! Looking forward to the PHD virtual gathering next month :)

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