By: Allison Ramirez
Many people may not realize that the root word “hallow” for Halloween – a night of mischief, candy, and dressing up as something spooky in our modern culture – actually means “holy.” As well, the suffix “een” is the shortened form of “evening.” In other words, Halloween means “holy evening.” Therefore, what we are actually celebrating on Halloween is not a festival of the macabre, but the Eve of all Hallows, the night before All Saints Day which celebrates and honors the saints who have gone before us.
One account of the Halloween tradition beginning a thousand years ago is in Ireland and Britain where a custom emerged for Christians to come together on the feat of All Hallows to dress in costumes, both of saints and evil spirits, to act out the battle between good and even around a bonfire.
In its own way, the three days of Halloween, All Saints, and All Souls, (October 31-November 2) are their own Triduum of sorts, celebrating the rich diversity of our body of Christ, both canonized saints on All Saints Say and all those loved ones who have gone before us in Christ on All Souls Day. Halloween is a night of eager preparation and anticipation for the celebration to come of remembering the lives of the saints, those men and women like us who we seek to emulate in their perseverance and virtue despite the hardships and vices they faced. We are encouraged to study the lives of the saints, read their spiritual biographies, and perhaps even pick our own personal “patron saint” whose intercession we ask for during times of need. All Saints Day is considered a holy day of obligation in the Catholic Church.
All Souls Day honors the memory of all the faithful departed, and a lovely tradition on this day is to visit a cemetery if you are able and offer prayers for the departed souls, especially for those souls in purgatory awaiting their entry into the kingdom of heaven. May your Halloween, All Saints, and All Souls days be memorable and holy!