A Christian Meaning to Halloween

The Truth about the Celebration that All Children Enjoy

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By Nieves San Martin

MADRID, OCT. 31, 2012 (Zenit.org).-  The great tradition of the Feast of All Saints goes back many centuries. The celebration of the commemoration of the dead the following day came sometime later. The two Christian celebrations were fused into one and transformed into a single celebration -- Halloween -- where anything goes and essentially forgetting its origins. 

The feast of All Saints, which the Church of Rome already observed, was transferred by Pope Gregory III (731-741) to November 1. Pope Gregory IV (827-844) extended this feast to the whole Church. 

Although the custom of remembering and praying for the dead is as old as the Church, something which also existed in many pre-Christian cultures, the liturgical commemoration of the dead dates back to November 2, 998. The custom was instituted by Saint Odilo, Benedictine monk and fifth abbot of Cluny, in southern France. Rome adopted the practice in the 14th century and was eventually extended to the whole Church. 

The name Halloween is no more than the popular deformation of the expression All Hallows’ Eve: Vigil of All Saints, used in Ireland. This very ancient celebration reached the United States though the Irish immigrants that took root there, undergoing a radical transformation only to return to Europe in its North American form. Old Europe donned a pumpkin and dedicated itself to enlivening a children’s celebration half way between carnival and the request for gifts by children of the Latin tradition. 

When my little neighbors come to my home to ask for trinkets, dressed as witches and devils, I first make them sing a Christmas carol. 

In many countries, the Day of All Saints and the following All Souls Day, indistinctly, as in Spain, are Days in which families visit cemeteries and remember their loved ones. Sweets are made which relatives give to one another; stuffed marzipan called “saint’s bones,” for example. Children are given sweets and from a very young age become familiar in a natural way with the idea that earthly life is not eternal, but the next life is. 

In Mexico, although the commemoration of the dead seems to be of pre-Hispanic origin, today it coincides with the feast of All Saints and All Souls Day. It is also observed in some countries of Central America, such as Brazil, as well as in many Hispanic communities of the United States. 

All Souls Day is more popular in Mexico. While some take flowers to cemeteries, others spend the Day remembering their deceased loved ones, erecting altars at dawn, some of which are real works of art. The simplest way in most homes is to put a cloth on a table and photographs of the deceased, adorned with flowers and mementos. 

What Halloween certainly is not is a Satanist celebration, although some want to make it such.

[Translation by ZENIT]