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Celebrating All Hallows Eve

October 31, 2012
All Hallows Eve (or Halloween as most people refer to) is a beautiful time of year. With the celebration of Halloween comes an abundance of bright, scary costumes and a drastic change in weather (just look at Hurricane Sandy). But more than just the costumes and the weather comes a growing realization of how close we are to celebrating Advent and Christmas.
For many years, I've had fond memories of dressing up in costume. Many of my colleagues here at Salt + Light would say that I dress up in costume everyday. That's a story for another day.
All kidding aside, and as we approach another Halloween season, have you ever wondered - why do you we celebrate Halloween? Where does Halloween get its origin from?
Halloween has always been known and understood to be influenced by the celebration of All Saints Day (known also as All Hallows) on November 1 and All Souls' Day on November 2. Those days were times for honouring the saints and praying for the departed who had yet reached Heaven. The feast of All Saints was introduced in the year 609, but celebrated on May 13.In the year 835, All Saints was switched to November 1 at the request of  Pope Gregory IV. Over the years, some have suggested that the change was made because of Celtic influence, while others suggest it was a German idea.
By the end of the 12th century, All Saints and All Souls had become holy days of obligation across Europe and involved traditions such as ringing bells for those souls still in purgatory.  "Souling", known as the custom of baking and sharing soul cakes for all christened souls, has been suggested as the origin of trick-or-treating.
One parish in Toronto will be marking the feast of All Saints in a very special way. St. Clement's Parish, in Etobicoke, will host a Parade of Saints at their 7pm Mass. The many candidates who are enrolled in their Sacramental programs for this year will begin the liturgy with a “Parade of Saints." Together, as a community in faith, they will rejoice in the untold number of men, women and children - who have attainted the glory of eternal life.
On one of our recent episodes of Perspectives: The Weekly Edition, Deacon Pedro asked our panel whether Catholics should celebrate Halloween. The question received a lot of feedback on Facebook at the time; there were many strong opinions and they ranged in the types of objections raised. One item that was at the heart of the discussion was the question of what we, as society, are exactly celebrating. Is it a Christian feast that has been 'hijacked' or is it something else, possibly occult? Some people object to glorifying the grotesque, but how less gruesome is it to non-Catholics to view us venerating body parts of saints, or any number of other forms of Catholic piety? We invite you to watch our Perspectives Weekly episode dedicated to Halloween.
I leave you with a simple prayer that I used with my students while working full-time in parish Youth Ministry. Thought I'd share it. Be sure to use it with your class rooms today and with your family later today. Happy All Hallows Eve!
Start by carving a pumpkin and keeping the pieces intact. Cut the eyes, ears, mouth, nose and cut a circle around the stem. Remove the seeds and insides of the pumpkin, put them in a plastic bag and return it to the inside of the pumpkin. Put the eyes, ears, nose and mouth back in the cut-out holes and replace the lid. Have a candle and long-stemmed lighter ready.
Have your family and/or children recite this prayer.
Lord, open my mind so I can learn new things about you and the world you created. (Remove the top of the pumpkin.)
Remove the things in my life that don’t please you. Forgive the wrong things I do and help me to forgive others. (Pull out the bag of seeds.)
Open my eyes to see the beauty you’ve made in the world around me. (Remove the eyes.)
Open my ears when I hear your word, so I may learn how you want me to live. (Remove the ears.)
I’m sorry for the times I’ve turned up my nose at people who are different from me, but who are your children, too. (Remove the nose.)
Let everything I say please you. (Remove the mouth.)
Lord, help me show your light to others through the things I do. (Place a candle inside and light it.)
Amen.
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Credit: CNS photo