Hallowe'en, the Holiday We Love to Hate

by Catherine Fournier

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In the old, pre-Christian calendar, October 31st was the last day of the old year. The Harvest was over, the nights were lengthening, the cold was growing, the year was obviously dying. Beltane fires, feasting and celebration marked the end of the old year and the beginning of the new. Not only was the year waning and dying on this night, it was the time when all the dead, and the witches and evil spirits that lived in the dark roamed the surface of the earth. The fires were as much to ward away the spirits as to light the darkening night.

This is what we now call Hallowe'en. The Druids believed that "during the night of November 1st demons, witches and evil spirits roamed the earth to greet the arrival of 'their season' - the early dark and long nights of the winter months. They had their fun with the poor mortals that night, frightening them, hariming them and playing all kinds of mean tricks. The only way, it seemed, for humans to escape the persecution of the demons was to offer them things they supposedly liked, especially dainthy food and sweets. Or, a human could disguise himself as one of them and join in their roaming. In this way, they would take him for one of their own and he would not be bothered. This very custom has come down to us, practically unaltered, as our familiar Hallowe'en celebration." (Francis X. Weiser, The Holyday Book, pages 135, 136.)

Obviously though the name is taken from the Christian feast All Hallows Eve (or the eve of All Hallow's Day, another name for All Saint's Day) the tradition and the celebration have nothing to do with the Feast of All Saints. As it is now observed in our day and society, with gross excesses of candy and costumes that look to the occult or damned for inspiration, it has no place in a Catholic or Christian home.

Many families do what the early Christian fathers did. When confronted with a pagan festival, the early Church found a way to 'Christianize' it, to keep the celebration but change the focus. Since feasts, celebrations, and traditions are the way every culture transmits its values to the next generation, and how a society teaches each other and its children about the faith and beliefs of that society, the fathers of the early Church used these modified pagan celebrations to teach the Christian faith and transmit its values.

Instead of Hallowe'en, celebrate All Saint's Eve with a party instead of or after the trick-or-treating. Basic to the idea of an All Saint's Eve party is the theme of saints. Everyone must come dressed as a saint (this encourages research and resourcefulness), games and activities have a 'saints' theme, and the food is specially named for the saints. Beyond that, the possiblities are almost endless, limited only by your imagination and resources.

Here are a few possibilities to consider.

  • Costumes:
    - this is a family party, everyone must dress as a saint, even Mom and Dad
    - have a 'Guess the Saint' period at the beginning of your party
    - later, march around the room and judge the costumes.
  • Games:
    - any usual party games, but with name changes, for example:
    - Saint Andrew's Fish Pond,
    - Saint Theresa's Rose Toss,
    - Saint Anthony's Find the Hidden Objects
    - Pin the Halo on the Angel
    - and Bobbing for the Forbidden Fruit
  • Other Activities:
    - children's videos of the lives of the saints,
    - a short skit dramatizing the life of a saint,
    - a craft table to make crowns or illuminated pictures of saints,
    - folk dancing
  • Food:
    Of course the food must be 'treat food' suitable for an evening party, but in keeping with the theme of All Saints.
    - Soul Cake - a spice or chocolate cake
    - Saint Joseph's Cream Puffs
    - Gingerbread Saints
    - Saint Barbara's Tarts
    - Dirge Cakes (a traditional name for doughnuts)

Book related to this story ...
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All Saints, All Souls and Halloween (World of Holidays) by Catherine Chambers
Price $ 22.83

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