October 28, 2020

The Editor speaks: All Souls, All Saints and Halloween

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colin-wilsonDid you dress up this weekend with your Halloween costumes? Did you go with your children trick or treating? Or did you go or are you going to church? To church?

Halloween is officially calendared as Oct 31st but it is followed by two very special holy days – All Saints Day on Nov 1st and All Souls Day on Nov 2nd.

Many Christians will attend a Midnight Mass on Nov 1st to welcome in All Saints Day.

What, then, has anything of this got to do with Halloween? Why do Christians want to spoil our fun? Christians don’t.

The root word of Halloween – ”hallow” – means ”holy.” The suffix “een” is an abbreviation of “evening.” It refers to the Eve of All Hallows, the night before the Christian holy day that honors saintly people of the past. “All Saints is a celebration of the communion of saints, those people we believe are in heaven, through good works and God’s grace,” said the Rev. Richard Donohoe, vicar of Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Birmingham.

All Souls’ Day is a day to pray for all souls. Among Catholics, prayers are offered for those in purgatory, waiting to get into heaven. On All Souls’ Day, Catholic churches have a Book of the Dead, in which parishioners have an opportunity to write the names of relatives to be remembered. “That’s placed near the altar,” Donohoe said. “That’s done all through November. It’s an All Souls’ tradition.”

Most Episcopal churches will observe All Saints’ Day on Sunday. Churches often read the names of those who have died in the last year.

More than a thousand years ago in and Britain, a common custom of Christians was to come together on the eve of the feast of All Hallows Day to ask for God’s blessing and protection from evil in the world. Often, they would dress in costumes of saints or evil spirits and act out the battle between good and evil around bonfires. That’s the of the modern observance of Halloween.

The Christian concept of the importance of the individual soul underlies All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, which are observed worldwide primarily in the Catholic and Anglican traditions. The ”Dia de los Muertos,” or ”day of the dead,” in Latin countries keeps alive some of the tradition of honoring souls of the dead. “All Hallows was considered a time when evil could manifest itself,” Donohoe said. “We do believe in the visible and the invisible. There is good and there is evil. There is invisible evil and invisible good. It’s an acknowledgement of that existence.”

In the , Nov. 1 is normally a holy day of obligation, when all Catholics are expected to attend Mass.

“All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day are related, but they are two separate celebrations,” Donohoe said. “On All Saints’ Day there’s a call to live as saints, to remind us how we’re supposed to live. On All Souls’ Day, we’re talking about all souls and asking God’s mercy for them. We’re talking about those people who have died before us, and their process of getting to heaven, through Christ.”

All Saints’ Day emanates from early Christian celebrations of martyrs in the Eastern Church, Donohoe said. “It has its roots all the way back to the fourth century,” he said.

SOURCE: http://www.al.com/living/index.ssf/2014/10/whats_the_difference_between_h.html

Therefore, Halloween is actually celebrating the coming of All Saints Day,

Although Halloween is a celebration we associate with the USA it did originate in Celtic fringes of Britain. However, over the years different traditions have been added until we have this huge festival that shops and manufacturers love. It is a multi billion industry.

When I lived in England Halloween was not a big celebration and was totally swamped by the November 5th Guy Fawkes celebration – the failed attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Bobbing for apples was the only thing I did. Trick-or-treating never happened.

But even that originated in Britain.

The following is taken from History of Halloween By Benjamin Radford from Live Science

The tradition of dressing in costumes and trick-or-treating may go back to the practice of “mumming” and “guising,” in which people would disguise themselves and go door-to-door, asking for food, Santino said. Early costumes were usually disguises, often woven out of straw, he said, and sometimes people wore costumes to perform in plays or skits.

The practice may also be related to the medieval custom of “souling” in Britain and Ireland, when poor people would knock on doors on Hallowmas (Nov. 1), asking for food in exchange for prayers for the dead.

Trick-or-treating didn’t start in the United States until World War II, but American kids were known to go out on Thanksgiving and ask for food — a practice known as Thanksgiving begging, Santino said.

“Mass solicitation rituals are pretty common, and are usually associated with winter holidays,” Santino said. While one tradition didn’t necessarily cause the others, they were “similar and parallel,” he said.

Tricks and games

These days, the “trick” part of the phrase “trick or treat” is mostly an empty threat, but pranks have long been a part of the holiday.

By the late 1800s, the tradition of playing tricks on Halloween was well established. In the United States and Canada, the pranks included tipping over outhouses, opening farmers’ gates and egging houses. But by the 1920s and ’30s, the celebrations more closely resembled an unruly block party, and the acts of vandalism got more serious.

Some people believe that because pranking was starting to get dangerous and out of hand, parents and town leaders began to encourage dressing up and trick-or-treating as a safe alternative to doing pranks, Santino said.

However, Halloween was as much a time for festivities and games as it was for playing tricks or asking for treats. Apples are associated with Halloween, both as a treat and in the game of bobbing for apples, a game that since the colonial era in America was used for fortune-telling. Legend has it that the first person to pluck an apple from the water-filled bucket without using his or her hands would be the first to marry, according to the book “Halloween and Commemorations of the Dead” (Chelsea House, 2009) by Roseanne Montillo.

Apples were also part of another form of marriage prophecy. According to legendon Halloween (sometimes at the stroke of midnight), young women would peel an apple into one continuous strip and throw it over her shoulder. The apple skin would supposedly land in the shape of the first letter of her future husband’s name.

Another Halloween ritual involved looking in a mirror at midnight by candlelight, for a future husband’s face was said to appear. (A scary variation of this later became the “Bloody Mary” ritual familiar to many schoolgirls.) Like many such childhood games, it was likely done in fun, though at least some people took it seriously. [Why Do We Carve Pumpkins at Halloween?]

Christian/Irish influence

Some evangelical Christians have expressed concern that Halloween is somehow satanic because of its roots in pagan ritual. However, ancient Celts did not worship anything resembling the Christian devil and had no concept of it. In fact, the Samhain festival had long since vanished by the time the Catholic Church began persecuting witches in its search for satanic cabals. And, of course, black cats do not need to have any association with witchcraft to be considered evil — simply crossing their path is considered bad luck any time of year.

As for modern Halloween, Santino, writing in “American Folklore: An Encyclopedia” (Garland, 1996), noted that “Halloween beliefs and customs were brought to North America with the earliest Irish immigrants, then by the great waves of Irish immigrants fleeing the famines of the first half of the nineteenth century. Known in the continent since colonial days, by the middle of the twentieth century Halloween had become largely a children’s holiday.” Since that time, the holiday’s popularity increased dramatically as adults, communities and institutions (such as schools, campuses and commercial haunted houses) have embraced the event.

Through the ages, various supernatural entities — including fairies and witches — came to be associated with Halloween, and more than a century ago in Ireland, the event was said to be a time when spirits of the dead could return to their old haunting grounds. Dressing up as ghosts or witches became fashionable, though as the holiday became more widespread and more commercialized (and with the arrival of mass-manufactured costumes), the selection of disguises for kids and adults greatly expanded beyond monsters to include everything from superheroes to princesses to politicians.

SOURCE: http://www.livescience.com/40596-history-of-halloween.html

And here in the Cayman Islands Halloween is celebrated BIG!

I hope the rain didn’t dampen everyone’s fun. But the official day is Monday and that promises to be dry.  Happy Halloween everyone.

 

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