Holiday History, Celebrations and Festivities
One of the highlights of this time of year, at least for children (and those of us who are still children at heart) is the celebration of Halloween. For all its frivolity and fun, Halloween actually has very serious roots. It’s earliest traces are found in the ancient druid celebration of the “Day of the Dead”, when spirits of the deceased were believed to return to the land of the living to collect on old debts or otherwise haunt those who did them wrong in this life. Other spirits were believed to have returned to bless those who had been good to them during their lives on earth. Similar observances are common to many other cultures around the world.
The holiday took on Christian overtones as the people of Britain and Ireland were evangelized beginning in the 5th century. The feast of “All Hallows” (All Saints) celebrated around the same time as the day of the dead, was used as a bridge by Christian missionaries who taught that these evil spirits actually came to wreak havoc on the earth in anticipation of All Hallows Day, when the saints would descend from heaven to cast them back. It is from this that the “mischief” aspect of the holiday originated.
Whereas in the Druid celebration horrible costumes were worn to emulate the evil spirits, Christians began dressing their children in costumes depicting various saints on the evening before All Hallows (“All Hallows Eve” or “Halloween”) hoping to confuse the spirits and send them fleeing in terror. For “tricking” them the children were offered a “treat”. And “trick or treating” was born! Time and changing cultures would add their own customs until it became the holiday we recognize today.
All Saints Day follows as we honor the heroes of our faith: those we know through the church’s official process of canonization, and those who are known only to GOD and those who were personally acquainted with them. This feast reminds us that all Christians are called to sanctity, to a “saintly” way of life. It is a holy day of obligation when all the faithful are required to attend Mass.
All Souls Day is celebrated on November 2, 2018 and the remainder of the month. We remember all our beloved deceased, and particularly entrust to GOD’s mercy those who have yet to complete their journey to the fullness of the Kingdom: “the souls in purgatory”. In addition to the usual mass, it is the tradition to honor loved ones who died in the past at a special All Souls Day Mass.