We have Pope Gregory IV to thank for turning a pagan celebration into a holy day . . . that is once again a pagan celebration (not sure who we have to thank for that!). Ancient Celtic tribes celebrated the New Year on November 1, making October 31 a sort of New Year’s Eve for them called Samhain. They believed that on Samhain the souls of the dead returned to mix with the living. Hence the need to wear masks and light bonfires to scare the dead away.
Trick or treating came from the tradition of going from house to house to gather food and materials for a community feast and bonfire. Not contributing was, of course, frowned upon.
But back to Pope Gregory. He moved the celebration for all the saints from May 13 to November 1 in 835. The day before was dubbed All Hallow’s Even or holy evening. The feasting that happens from All Hallow’s Eve on October 31 through All Souls Day on November 2 is to remind us of the communion of saints (recognize that phrase from the Apostles’ Creed?).
The communion of saints is the bond between all Christian believers, living and dead. It says we are all parts of one body with Christ as the head.
I know Halloween has gotten a bad reputation in some Christian circles. I’ve always loved Halloween–oh, the princess costumes from days gone by! And I’m glad many churches, including mine, have found ways to return some of the holy to the day.
This evening I’ll be helping with a community Halloween party that will also serve as church outreach. We’ll organize games, hand out candy, dress up and in doing so, show a little Christian love to our neighbors. A good way to celebrate the communion of saints.
Happy All Hallow’s Eve!