Happy Halloween to all of my readers!
I thought it would be interesting to briefly mention the significance of this day most people identify with ghouls, costumes, trick or treating, and candy.
With certain exceptions, like Easter, the date of most Christian celebrations are either unknown (e.g.: no one really knows the actual date when Jesus was actually born) or not tied to a certain date (e.g.: Holy Cross Day). The fluidity of dates for these celebrations allowed the Church to assign dates to them in ways that were most effective in evangelizing the pagan peoples surrounding the early Christian communities. Hallowmass is among those Christian celebrations which has no specific event to tie it to a certain date, so the Church, in its wisdom, established it to begin on October 31 because the pagan practices around this date seemed to be easily adaptable to the underlying spiritual significance of Hallowmass (described below).
The pagan practices around this date, by and large, commemorated and/or acknowledged the dead and the ending of the seasons of life (spring and summer) and beginning of the seasons of death (autumn and winter). The Church took these pagan practices and adapted and directed them to its own commemoration of the dead, which is what underlies the Hallowmass.
Hallowmass is a Triduum; a Triduum is a Christian celebration which involves three days, in this case they are: All Hallow’s Eve (October 31), All Saint’s Day (a.k.a.: All Hallow’s Day) (November 1), and All Soul’s Day (a.k.a.: the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed) (November 2). Each day helps us live out and recognize what the writer of the book of Hebrews says is a “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1). That great cloud of witnesses are all Christians, living and dead, who pray, support, and help one another grow closer with one another and with God. Hallowmass helps us take the time to focus especially on those dead Christian believers.
All Saint’s Day is one of the major (or “high”) Christian holy days and, like all major holy days, it is preceded by a vigil the evening before. The most famous holy day vigil is Christmas Eve and, like Christmas Eve, All Hallow’s Day (i.e.: All Saint’s Day) also has a vigil called All Hallow’s Eve, now known as Halloween. On All Saint’s Day, the Church recognizes all of the Christians who have died and are now recognized as having been martyred for the faith and/or as “saints“, which is just a fancy way of saying someone is a hero of the Church (and, therefore, as a follower of Jesus Christ) and are experiencing the true presence of Jesus.
Now, many Christians recognized that there are a great many truly faithful and great followers of Jesus who may not be a “big name”, if you will. Many Christian families have that faithful father, mother, grandparent, child, son, daughter, aunt, uncle, or whomever, who has helped shape and form the others in his/her family in the Faith, but is not known to anyone but that family. They may not have the name recognition or the wide appeal or influence of someone like Saint Augustine of Hippo or Saint Francis of Assisi, but for that person’s family, the impact is much more intimate and enormous. So, in recognition of this, the Church established All Soul’s Day to commemorate all of those Christians who have passed onto the next life.
So, by all means have fun dressing up and eating candy tonight, and enjoying the children, especially yours if you have any, having fun living out a fantasy of being their favorite super hero or princess or whatever it is they like; just do not forget that these three days are also holy and sacred and be sure to remember those Christians who are no longer with us, but, if we have faith in Jesus, we will meet again in the life everlasting.