I love this time of year. Fall is certainly one of my favorite seasons. I’m not particularly a fan of hot and humid weather. This crisp weather brings out our sweaters, blankets, and all things pumpkin. While shopping through Target, Walmart, Hy-Vee, etc., it isn’t hard to see that there is another major holiday coming up, and that is Halloween! All over we find Halloween candy, pumpkins, costumes, candy corn, and more. While sometimes referred to as the Devil’s holiday, Halloween has ties to the Christian tradition. It looks very different today than it did back in 600s AD or within the ancient Celtic tradition. Within the Christian tradition, this Holiday we celebrate today as Halloween was called “All Hallows Eve.”
The holiday we celebrate today as “Halloween” pulls its roots from the Celtic festival of Samhain, very similar to the tradition of Día de los Muertes, or Day of the Dead. On this night, they celebrated Samhain, the god of the dead. The Celts believed that spirits of the dead visited the living. They would set out food and drink for spirits of their beloved ancestors. The animated movie, Coco, was one that illustrated the festival of the Day of the Dead.
Certainly, as the Christian church grew in Europe, those who took a Christian faith tradition were living out their lives around Samhain and other festivals. In AD 610, Pope Boniface IV began All Saints Day on May 13 to remember Christians who died for their faith. A century later, Pope Gregory moved the day to November 1, coinciding with Samhain. All Saints Day was then called All Hallows, which means to honor something as holy. (Think the Lord’s Prayer- Hallowed Be Thy Name.) The day before All Hallows was then called All Hallows Eve. On those days, the church prayed for those who have died and put out cakes for those who have departed, believing they would visit their house that night.
As we celebrate Halloween this year and enjoy the crisp chill of fall, may we honor and remember those who have gone before us. May we honor their legacy, the gift they were to the world, and remember their stories.
Information sources: Carter, Miriam, and Jeanette Dart. 2015. “Halloween: A Fun Neighborhood Event or Participation in the World of Spirits?” Missio Apostolica 23 (1): 102–13.