The Holiness in Halloween (part 1)

This reading is in support of the St Thomas mission to support the Year of Faith and the Emeritus Pontiff’s call for mission.

Today’s message does not come from the Bible, but two noteworthy sources and a handful of others on the internet: The two sources are How Stuff Works.com and The real Origins of Halloween (version 4.7) by Isaac Bonewits.

If you haven’t already bought your candy and had a try on of this year’s costume, there is still time before the Halloween parties and the Trick or Treating start. Many of you are thinking; Halloween? Isn’t that a Pagan celebration? Don’t the Wicans and Devil worshipers celebrate Halloween?

What in the world does Halloween have to do with being Catholic?

Actually, it has a lot to do with being a Christian and being Catholic. We can have some fun learning a little about the origins of Halloween while still keeping our sanctity and reverence for our religion.

First we have to look at the origins of the word Halloween. As with most things of any tradition in the English language, the etymology of the word is claimed by the Irish, the Scotts, and the English. Fortunately for all of us the meaning of the word is the same from all of them. That is it is a shortening of “All Hallows Eve” or “All Hallows Even” as it was in the day, then to Hallowe’en, then to Halloween as we know it today.

All Hallows Eve of course refers to the day before All Saints Day, which was established by Pope Boniface IV in the Seventh Century. He established this day on May 13th. Later, as with most things to do with our modern calendar, both liturgical and secular, Pope Gregory II moved All Saints Day from May 13 to its current date of 1 November.

But why do I remember it as a Pagan celebration?

We have the Celts to thank for that. They celebrated something called Samhain (Pronounced Sow hen, the mh is a w in Celtic). Samhain was the celebration of nature and its bounty that accompanied the changing of the seasons. It marked the final harvest of the year, and herders and shepherds came in from the fields and the community was once again whole. They also believed in parallel words and turning points. They believed at this point the world of the dead and the world of the living were at their closet point. Even to the point that some spirits could cross over during this time.

Later, the Catholic church established all Souls Day, which fell on the 2nd of November. If this falls on a Sunday, we celebrate it on the 3rd of November. So we have the day in which we venerate and celebrate all of our saints followed by the day that we celebrate and venerate our souls departed and we pray for those who have gone into the sleep to be awaken on the day of reckoning. We pray for those in Purgatory to ease their suffering and we pray for our loved ones, still here on this earth.

In the Latino community these traditions are strong. Especially in Mexico, where the All Hallow’s Eve, All Saints Day, and All Soul’s Day observed collectively as “Los Dias de los Muertos” (The Days of the Dead). Families remember their lost, they visit their graves and much like the Romans of old, they lay out food and wine for the refreshment of the dead. When was the last time we were able to honor our lost loved ones, with a visit to their graves, or a cleaning of their stones?

Of course, this is also a tradition of celebration and revelry, as they hold parades and parties. We in the Anglo Saxon World hold Trick or Treating.

We need to ask: Why must Halloween be about Ghost, Goblins, Vampires, Mummies, and such?

If we are about to celebrate our holiness, then we must acknowledge evil. Many Christians balk at Halloween and say it is not a holiday that they will celebrate; They say this because we all want to believe that only God exist in this world. Some of us want to believe the stories and the films from Hollywood are only make believe. God has made it clear that Evil exist. Current Exorcist in the Catholic Church has tripled in the last 10 years.

Vampires and Werewolves are not waiting for you on Halloween night, but the temptations of Satan await us every day. Halloween is a good reminder of that.

Next week we will talk about Trick or Treating, pranking, and Jack-o-Lanterns.

God Bless