Two Feasts and Hallowe’en

This week we celebrated two important Feasts in the Church: All Saints on 1 November and All Souls on 2 November.  In addition, there was Hallowe’en on Wednesday evening, 31 October.  What are these Feasts and what is the history of Hallowe’en and its connection to them? 

Firstly, let’s look at Hallowe’en.  Originally, in the Northern Hemisphere, 1 November   marked the end of the summer months and the pre-Christian Celts believed that at that time the spirits of the departed returned to their homes to visit loved ones.  To frighten off evil spirits who might have been ‘hovering’, masks and other disguises were worn.  Around 610 CE Pope Boniface IV decided to Christianise this festival –  just as had happened to the originally pagan Feast which became Christmas –  and claim it for Jesus.  At that time, a Church Feast celebrating those Christians who had died was observed on 13 May.  The pope moved that celebration from that date to 1 November.  At the same time, the evening before this Feast was also sanctified as All Hallows’ Eve or Hallowe’en.  It was a time to remember the faithful believers of past ages and to pray that the living might learn from their good example.

Today Hallowe’en no longer has much to do with honouring the faithful departed and learning from their example and it has lost the Christian focus given to it by Pope Boniface. Some Christians today feel that Hallowe’en is evil.  John Dickson, Anglican minister and director of the centre for Public Christianity has this to say: “So, is Halloween today ‘evil’?  Sure it is, if it involves the glorification of things satanic; even worse if it trivializes the Devil. And there’s nothing good in the festival if it revolves around playing nasty pranks on neighbours who forgot to buy sweets. Beyond that, a community dress-up involving opening our doors to each other and giving treats to kids in fancy dress is a lovely idea. It might even build friendships in a society hungry for community.”  So, amidst the pranks, parties, fun and costumes, it may indeed be possible to find the connectedness we so greatly need.  

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Ms Kerry McCullough

Spirituality and Liturgy Coordinator