All Hallow’s Eve

Friends in Christ, we are approaching two important days in the Liturgical year; All Saints Day and All Souls Day, when we honor the Saints in heaven, and pray for those who have not yet reached heaven. Before these sacred days, we find this secular holiday of Halloween tomorrow. Literally, ‘All Hallows Eve,’ which means the evening before All-Hallows-Day. Some claim to know the roots of Halloween with certitude, but if we look into it, we find that it is not entirely clear how it originated.
In the early Church, major feasts always had a vigil on the day before the feast. So, the Vigil, All Saints Day, and All Souls day were together part of what was called All-Hallow-Tide.
As far back as the 15th century is found the custom of baking and sharing ‘soul-cakes’ for the dead. These cakes were filled with sweet spices or raisins, and topped with the mark of a cross. They were traditionally set out with glasses of wine as an offering for the dead. During All-Hallow-Tide, children would go from door to door asking people for ‘soul-cakes,’in exchange for praying and singing for the people’s dead. One of the songs the children sang was:
A soul! a soul! a soul-cake!
Please good Missis, a soul-cake!
An apple, a pear, a plum, or a cherry,
Any good thing to make us merry.
One for Peter, two for Paul
Three for Him who made us all.
In some places it was believed that wandering souls left the cemeteries for a macabre festival before departing for heaven.
So this could be one of the streams which gave us such a strange thing as Halloween; but the other might be the Celts of Ireland. The pagan festival of Samhain was in late October in Ireland.[i] It was seen as a time, when the spirits or fairies could more easily come into our world. Spirits of dead relatives were thought to come, and places were set at table for them. Superstition and magic were part of that pagan time. Later, some went house to house in disguises, asking for food, or threaten mischief if they weren’t received.
So the origin of tomorrow’s secular tradition is uncertain, but what IS certain, is that many of the dead need our prayers, and would like to enter heaven and become saints. It is also certain that there is a war on for souls waged by the demons. St. Paul says today, ‘our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the evil spirits, therefore, put on the armor of God.
So let us put on the armor of God, and also in the coming days, pray for our beloved dead.



[i] That may be why Pope Gregory IV moved All-Saints from May 13th to November 1st, to go against that pagan festival, this is unknown.

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