Children look forward to Halloween for a number of reasons. They can’t wait to gather all that candy, and they know that soon after Halloween is Thanksgiving and then Christmas. It’s no wonder children like the last three months of the year – there’s food, food and more food as well as getting out of school. You may want to teach your kids about All Hallows’ Eve, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day so they know the basis for the holiday.
Depending upon your frame of reference, All Hallows’ Eve is either a Christian or a pagan holiday. Wiccans, or modern day witches, claim the day is associated with pagan celebrations. Catholics and Episcopalians, however, say October 31 is a time to celebrate the saints of old so it is also the eve of the Feast of All Saints. This holy time has been commemorated for centuries.
According to some people, All Hallows’ Eve, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day is an acknowledgment of the pain and suffering associated with death. It is also thought that modern Halloween is a way to try to deny the reality of death and anything evil in the world by making fun of it. Rather than concentrating on Christian ideals in a solemn way, they would rather make the evening all about something less serious.
Others prefer to reach back to ancient history where ancient Celtic tribes celebrated the festival of Samhain who was the Lord of the Dead. The Celts believed the dead would rise and walk the earth with the living. People would have bonfires and wear masks as a way to scare the evil spirits and dead away.
All Saints’ Day, which was originally celebrated in May, was moved to November 1 by Pope Gregory IV. This festival began at sunset the evening before, which is October 31, and was called All Hallows’ Even or “holy evening.” As time passed, people slurred the words together and it became Halloween.
Originally the holy days were set aside to remember loved ones who had passed on from life to death. It didn’t matter if the person who had died wasn’t officially a saint; they were still commemorated on this day. Some people believe Pope Gregory IV moved the date of All Hallows’ Even to October 31 in order to draw pagans to Catholicism by substituting a pagan festival with a Christian one.
The church still celebrates All Souls’ Day on November 2. This was a day set aside for Catholics to pray for those who had died and whose souls were in Purgatory. They could also gain indulgences for these souls which would reduce the amount of time they’d have to spend in Purgatory.
No one can know for certain the exact beginning of the celebrations occurring between October 31 and November 1. The truth be told, there is probably a bit of truth concerning both claims about the historical background. The important thing to remember when you teach your kids about All Hallows’ Eve, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day is to talk about what it means for your family and decide which aspects of the holiday you want them to know.