Hallowe'en and All Souls -
What's it all about? Here's a little help if you are thinking about dressing up as a zombie...
H — Holy. That’s right! Hallowe'en is a derivation of “All Hallows’ Eve” or “All Saints’ Eve” or “the vigil of All Saints’ Day”… a Holy Day of Obligation for Catholics. All Saints’ Day is a celebration of the holy saints in heaven who were true exemples of Christ’s love in life and now enjoy the eternal reward of heaven. The saints are our sisters and brothers in faith who pray for us.
A — Ancient. The traditions of Hallowe'en date back to the beginning of the Church. In fact, many of them pre-date the birth of Christ. The pagan and pre-Christian traditions of many cultures have been woven into the tapestry of the Catholic faith. This is another great thing about being Catholic. It is not necessary for a culture to be obliterated or brought into conformity with any universal set of norms to be Catholic. The beauty and meaning and ritual that already exist within a society can be offered a Christian significance.
L — Los Muertos. Mexican Catholics combine traditional Aztec celebrations for the dead and the Catholic tradition of All Saints Day into El Dia de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead). Mexican families have in their homes a crucifix, images and statues of their favorite saints, and pictures of deceased family, friends and loved ones, as well as their favorite treats. El Dia de los Muertos is a day to remember that by the power of Christ’s death and resurrection the separation and pain death causes is not permanent… not ultimately triumphant. It’s a day to invite the souls of our departed loved ones to draw near in anticipation of our eternal togetherness in heaven. Check out this short BBC documentary on El Dia de Los Muertos.
L — Lovers of Jesus. Halloween is an occasion for celebrating the saints. If you’re new to praying with the saints (or if you’re in need of a refresher course), get to know a new saint this All Hallows’ Eve. Choose a saint to be your partner in prayer for this year. You can pick a saint who shares your name, whose feast day coincides with your birthday, who is the patron of your occupation or field of study, or whose life resonates with you for one reason or another. This site offers a database of saints listed by name, patronage and feast day.
O — Own your mortality. Lots of porches and windows at this time of year are bedecked in skulls, skeletons and carved pumpkins. Some Christians turn up their noses at such displays as pagan and demonic. But not Catholics! All Hallows’ Eve is an opportunity for us to remember our mortality. Death is an inevitable part of the human condition. Hallowe'en is a celebration of the inevitability of death, the fragility of life and, above all, our hope in the resurrection of the dead. Halloween is an opportunity for us to put all of our anxiety about death right in the forefront and find consolation in the saints who enjoy eternal life in heaven with God.
W — Weird. Enough said.
E — Eat… and pray. The origins of trick-or-treat have to do with prayer. The poor (often poor children) would travel from house to house offering to pray for the souls of the dead belonging to each family in return for small treats. This year, in the midst of the onslaught of sweets, toffee apples and popcorn, take time to pray for the poor… especially poor children. Put your prayer into action! Is there a shelter that serves homeless women and children in your city? Do you know a family that’s struggling to put food on the table?
E — Early Catholics. Did you know that the Jack-o’-lantern (carved pumpkin) was brought to America by Irish Catholics and then over to us in the UK? The tale of “Stingy Jack,” a miserly scoundrel who played tricks on the Devil, is the cautionary tale upon which this tradition is based. The first Jack-o’-lanterns were carved from potatoes and turnips. Pumpkin became the gourd of choice because of its abundance in the American colonies. Remember, the Puritans (and their descendents in this century, modern Evangelicals) are a war with Halloween dubbing it “unchristian” and “evil.” (Puritans targeted its Catholic participants too.) Don’t take this holy day for granted!
N — Need a costume? Honor the reason for the season by dressing up like one of the saints! You could be St. Lucy carrying her eyes on a plate, St. Thomas More toting his severed head under his arm, St. Michael the Archangel in full armor, St. Padre Pio complete with oozing stigmata, or St. Margaret of Antioch peering out from the mouth of a dragon.
Enjoy HALLOWE'EN, but remember the true meaning of All saints' Eve too. These videos might also help you more or they might to help you to explain to others what it's all about for Catholics!!