What is the reason we celebrate Halloween? Halloween is thought to have roots in medieval Christian beliefs and practices. The phrase “All Hallows'” is found in Old English, “All Hallows’ Eve” dates to 1556. The word Halloween or Hallowe’en dates to about 1745 and is of Christian origin. The word Hallowe’en means “Saints’ evening”. Since the time of the early Church, major feasts in Christianity (such as Christmas, Easter and Pentecost) had vigils that began the night before. It comes from a Scottish term for All Hallows’ Eve (the evening before All Hallows’ Day). Over time, (All) Hallow(s) E(v)en evolved into Hallowe’en. It is the evening before the Christian holy days of All Saints’ Day on November 1 and All Souls’ Day on November 2. The traditions and importance of Halloween vary greatly among countries that observe it.
What is the reason we celebrate All Saints? The celebration of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day stems from a belief that there is a powerful spiritual bond between those in heaven and the living. In Catholic theology, the day commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision (i.e. seeing God). Both the Feast of All Saints and the Feast of All Souls evolved in the life of the Church independently of paganism. The exact origins of All Saints are uncertain, although, after the legalization of Christianity in 313, a common commemoration of Saints, especially the martyrs, appeared in various areas throughout the Church. The primary reason for establishing a common feast day was because of the desire to honor the great number of martyrs, but there were not enough days of the year for a feast day for each martyr and many of them died in groups. Therefore, a common feast day for all saints was established.
Particular ethnic groups developed their own lore which was eventually merged with the celebration. For example, in Ireland, people held a parade in honor of Muck Olla, a god. They followed a leader dressed in a white robe with a mask from the head of an animal and begged for food. Ireland is also the source of the jack-o’ lantern fable: A man named Jack was not able to enter heaven because of his miserliness and he could not enter hell because he played practical jokes on the devil; so, he was condemned to walk the earth with his lantern until Judgment Day. The Scots walked through fields and villages carrying torches and lit bonfires to ward off witches and other evil spirits. With the spread of Christianity and the establishment of All Saints Day, some of these pagan customs remained in the English-speaking world for All Hallows’ Eve, out of superstition and out of fun. Nevertheless, All Saints’ Day clearly arose from genuine a Christian devotion.
What is the reason we celebrate All Souls? All Souls’ Day, in Roman Catholicism, is a day for commemoration of all the faithful departed, i.e., those baptized Christians who are believed to be in purgatory because they died with the guilt of lesser sins on their souls. Roman Catholic doctrine holds that the prayers of the faithful on earth will help cleanse these souls in order to prepare them for the vision of God in heaven, and the day is dedicated to prayer and remembrance.
Why should we care and How can I make it my own? First, come to Mass. It is the source and summit of what we are! Come to our “Commissioning Mass” for the Priests of the Family of Parishes. It will take place with Bishop Hanchon at Our Lady of the Rosary at 6:30 PM on November 1. You can also pray for all your deceased loved ones with a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Vigneron on November 2 here at the Cathedral at 7 PM. Contact Anna Romano today or tomorrow for details about memorial candles, or see page 4 of this weekend’s bulletin. The Mass will be offered for your loved ones. Hope to see you there!