On Monday, Oct. 31, many countries in the Western world will be celebrating Halloween, the merged holiday of the Catholic Hallowed Eve and the Celtic Pagan Samhain. As you’re choosing costumes, places to go, and treats to offer each other, consider the history as well.
Samhain was celebrated at the end of the harvest season and was a practical time of taking stock of supplies and preparing for winter. It is the halfway mark between the fall equinox and the winter solstice. It signals the three darkest months of the northern hemisphere year ending with Imbolc on Feb. 2. It’s mid-winter which we celebrate as Ground Hog Day.
The Celts believed that on Oct. 31 (some say Nov. 1), the ordinary laws of time and space are temporarily suspended and the thin veil between our earth world and the spirit world are lifted. Loved ones who had died could be communicated with on their way to Heaven.
“Single candles were lit and left in a window to help guide the spirits of ancestors and loved ones home. Extra chairs were set to the table and around the hearth for the unseen guest. Apples were buried along roadsides and paths for spirits who were lost or had no descendants to provide for them. Turnips were hollowed out and carved to look like protective spirits, for this was a night of magic and chaos. Then they would celebrate the Feast of the Dead.”
People were advised against traveling that night. If they did, they dressed in white to look like ghosts, disguised themselves with straw, or tried to look like the opposite sex to fool the Nature Spirits. Does any of this sound familiar to you? Did you ever wonder why we celebrated Halloween the way we do? Americans began carving pumpkins in 1866. It’s much easier than carving turnips; they’re larger and can be lit up.
All Saints Day had its origins in the 300s. It is the day on which “Catholics celebrate all the saints, known and unknown, … a surprisingly old feast. It arose out of the Christian tradition of celebrating the martyrdom of saints on the anniversary of their martyrdom. When martyrdom increased during the persecutions of the late Roman Empire, local dioceses instituted a common feast day in order to ensure that all martyrs, known and unknown, were properly honored.”
It was originally the first Sunday after Pentecost, but Pope Gregory III changed the date to Nov. 1. Building on an established celebration is one way that new leaders help introduce a new culture’s ideas. It started out being a celebration of martyrs, then saints were added, and then it included all saints known, and unknown. Now I really like that part. I’m certain that I’ve known some ‘saints’ in my life, those people whose love touches many and lovingly affects them for life. And that seems to be what they live for, not fame, money, or glory, but just to be of loving service to all they come in contact with. I hope you have one in your life, or maybe you are the saint.
Catholics ask saints to help pray, and to pray for them. There is a saint for every day of the year, so each person born has a saint.
The other name for All Saints Day was All-hallows, and the day before was called All-hallows Eve and eventually, Halloween. The day after All Saints Day became All Souls Day.
All Souls Day is another Catholic holy day that celebrates all souls who have died, but not yet gone to heaven. On All Souls Day prayers are made that reduce their time in purgatory, where the souls are awaiting purification to go to heaven.
In Britain, on All Souls Day, the needy would go to peoples’ houses asking for soul cakes. In return they would pray for the loved ones in Purgatory. It was called “souling.”
On Halloween, young people would go around in costume and ask for food, money, wine or other things. In return they would sing, tell poetry or tell jokes. That was called ‘guising’.
In the mid-1800’s many Irish immigrants came to the US to escape famine and popularized these traditions. There was a period of “trick-or-treating” that included many tricks. But now it has become a family holiday in the US. However, in Australia, Japan and New Zealand, Halloween is celebrated by young adults in clubs and private parties.
So maybe this Halloween or after, you might set a little time aside to remember your family’s ancestors and loved ones, especially those recently parted. Send them some loving thoughts and appreciate all they did for you.
They worked hard just to keep your lineage alive… with no electricity, running water, modern communication systems, and appliances, etc. Pray for them. It could also be a good time to forgive anyone of them you hold a grudge against, so your heart will have more energy to love.
One last word, and that’s about getting your body back into balance after consuming too much sugar. We all do it, but it is tough on the body.
Humans weren’t meant to consume large quantities of pure sugar and unrefined carbohydrates. Watch a little child after consuming too much sugar: happy face, manic face, crabby face, crying face, puddle of exhaustion. All ages are also affected. So, for ‘the day after’ maybe this will help:
“Don’t starve yourself the day after a sugar binge. Instead, wait until your body feels hungry again and eat a small protein- and fiber-rich meal like broiled salmon and roasted broccoli.
A meal like this will keep your blood sugar in control and stimulate hormones that encourage your body to burn sugar that it has stored for energy (which you’ll have a lot of because a big sugar binge can super-saturate your body’s sugar stores).
Drink a lot of water and continue to eat a higher-protein, lower-carbohydrates diet for the entire post-binge day. This will help you burn off that extra sugar, as well as the water weight that goes along with it.”
So, Happy Halloween. Knowledge is power.