Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?

Dining With The Dead

Zombies and Vampires are not welcome, but the dead are. In fact, they are invited to dine with the living on All Hallow’s Eve. Trick or treat!

Rather than mourning the deceased with tears, let’s celebrate their memory with love because love is something you can take with you to the-other-side. And, under certain circumstances, like an invitation to a Dumb Supper, love may bring family members back from the dead, to break bread with the living.

A Dumb Supper is a serious meal meant for ghosts; your passed-over-loved-ones to be exact. A traditional Dumb Supper is served on all Hollow’s Eve in your home and on a plate at your table with the rest of the family. This solemn dinner often begins at the Witching Hour of midnight with a prayer of thanksgiving. It ends during the Hour of Souls between 1:00 and 3:00 am when most souls of the dying pass-over to the other side.

This silent supper is shrouded in complete respectful silence and culminates in a celebration of spirits. The Dumb Supper is an ancient tradition where the dead attend the living for a magical night of communion.

Dining with the dead is another way of saying, “I love you.”

A Dumb Supper is a bridge between the living and the dead built with affection and traversed by loved-ones. It is a centuries-old tradition with roots in Europe and branches in America.

Most of us understand the concept of death as spirit leaving the body. But, what about the idea of spirits returning for dinner?

We regularly show our love for the deceased by talking to them at their place of burial, taking them gifts of flowers, lighting candles for them in our places of worship, and displaying their pictures as a token of our enduring love. On the anniversary of their passing we have moments of silence, song, and food where we live, work and pray.

However, is setting a place for the dead at our dinner table going too far?  

Those who practice the Dumb Supper on All Hallows’ Eve don’t think so. The Dumb Supper is a reverent event that discourages conversation or noise of any kind for fear of disturbing the dead.

Dumb Supper literally means quiet-meal—mum’s the word–Shhh!

Silence during the meal is of the utmost importance, therefore electronics and motors that beep, buzz or squeak are turned off or unplugged. This includes television sets, refrigerators, and freezers. No phones, cell phones, notepads or computers are permitted in the dining area during the sacred dinner.

These special meals take place on Samhain, October 31st which is Halloween or All Hallows Eve, also known as All Saints’ Eve; the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day. It is also a yearly celebration observed in a number of other countries. This practice, celebrated worldwide, is one of the largest gatherings at the Festival of the Dead in Salem, Massachusetts.              

Why would the veil between the living and the dead be thinner on Halloween day than any other? Because intention powered by the flame of love is a powerful tool capable of building a bridge to the “other side.”

Perhaps Collective Intention empowered through prayer and meditation can literally pull aside the curtain of death so the deceased can once again share time and space in the land of the living in the form of a spiritual last supper before returning home.

Here is how the Dumb Supper works.

The evening opens with a blessing where each attendee is guided through the veil between the worlds to the realms of the dead where no one living may speak. After the family meal is cooked, the table is set with an empty place setting filled with food.

In keeping with tradition, the courses of The Dumb Supper are served backward and the placement of everything down to the silverware is reversed as a means of weaving participants into the shadowy world of spirit.

Rather than starting the meal with soup and salad, it begins with dessert.

This almost begs the question, “Is this an example of the saying, ‘Life is short, so eat dessert first.’” Soup and salad are served at the end of the dinner, much like European dining customs. 

Photographs of the deceased are often placed on the table as an invitation; a spirituality and metaphysical first step in manifesting a desired outcome.

The food left on the plates of the dead family members is either fed to the family pets or put outside for the wild animals to enjoy. It is never thrown away. The idea is to share with the living, anything living to keep the love and memories alive.

Ask and ye shall receive.

So, this Halloween dare to celebrate life by setting a place at your table for the dead. If you set your intention to have deceased family ancestors enjoy a meal with you in the name of love, you never know who will show up for dinner.

avatar
  Subscribe  
Notify of
Vatsala Shukla
Vatsala Shukla

I had read about this custom as a teenager in one of the Ripley’s Believe It or Not book series, Kathleen, and didn’t quite understand it back then. I guess as we grow older, we become aware of our own mortality and practices that honor loved ones or ancestors appeal to our soul.

Among the Hindus, we have a fortnight called Pitra Paksha or Shhraadh where we honor our departed loved ones and ancestors and part of the prayers and rituals includes food but that is fed directly to the living at the temples.

Kathleen O\'Keefe-Kanavos
Kathleen O\'Keefe-Kanavos

Vatsala, Pitra Paksha sounds like a wonderful practice to honor our departed loved ones and I especially like the idea of feeding the food directly to the living at the temples. I live a couple of hours from Salem, Mass and the Dumb Supper is widely practiced in this area. Before I moved here, I had never heard of it.

Joyce Hansen
Joyce Hansen

Oh, I did not know of this tradition. It certainly is more respectful and having a dinner for them brings back memories and celebrates their life. However, doing everything backward is a curiosity.

Kathleen O\'Keefe-Kanavos
Kathleen O\'Keefe-Kanavos

Yes, Joyce, setting the table backward and serving dinner backward is certainly challenging. What is a real challenge is not opening the refrigerator after unplugging it or foods may begin to spoil. It is unplugged to reduce any sounds because a Dumb Supper must be very silent.

Suzie Cheel

I think I may have heard of this , but never experienced it. Also I understand about the All Hallows but for me Halloween is not a tradition I grew up with and now just very commercial as I see it. I am now envioning setting a place on maybe the birthday of a love one who has passed and allowing the spirit to come forth- interesting xxx

Kathleen O\'Keefe-Kanavos
Kathleen O\'Keefe-Kanavos

Suzie, what a wonderful idea! To set a place for departed loved ones on their birthday or deathday and invite their spirit to come share the love and memories with us may be so cathartic. They may be gone from our waking sight (they may still visit us in dreams) but they are never forgotten. Thanks for your comment.

Teresa Salhi
Teresa Salhi

Well, I definitely learned something new after reading your blog about the Dumb Supper. What a wonderful tradition for those who are hoping/comfortable with spending an evening with a deceased loved one.