Spooks, Saints, and Souls: The Connection Between Halloween and All Saint's Day

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Spooks, Saints, and Souls: The Connection Between Halloween and All Saint's Day

Posted by: jepenner on Friday, October 30, 2020 at 8:25PM

Happy Allhallowtide!

"Wait, what's that?" you say? "Today is Halloween. What's Allhallowtide?"

Let me explain.

Today, tomorrow and Monday happen to be major feast days within the Church calendar. Some of these holidays can sound a bit old-school, so bear with us for a quick history lesson:

Today is All Hallows Eve, or Halloween. Sunday marks All Saints Day, and Monday is All Souls Day. Traditionally, these two days together were called All Hallows. During the early church and medieval times, All Hallows Eve was the day of vigil observed before All Saints' Day, a feast day commemorating saints - those in the Church who died in persecution for their faith. (These feast days used to be actual feasts; nowadays the feasting is usually confined to the spoils of Trick-or-Treating or other sugary goodies). All Souls Day followed up on the day after, a traditional feast day observing prayer and petition for Christians who have died.

For Christians, Halloween dates back to early medieval times as a vigil day. These were days of fasting and prayer that ended at Vespers (the traditional evening church service), often culminating in a feast the following day. Most Halloween customs we know today are derived from practices dating back centuries. For example, the goodies your kids bring home from Trick-or-Treating got their start as Soul Cakes, little sweet buns baked in commemoration of the departed (themselves a throwback to pagan rituals of food offerings for the deceased). These cakes were collected door to door in exchange for prayers for the giver's dead relatives.

Pumpkin Carving and costumes, too, have their roots in the middle ages – superstition held that supernatural activity was particularly high in the days leading up to Allhallowtide, and carved gourds and costumes were thought to confuse any malevolent forces who might visit your house intending to cause trouble.

These days, of course, Halloween is generally more commercial, and leans heavily towards fun, treating ourselves, and giving each other a good scare (fun fact: twice as many horror movies are released in October than in any other time of the year).

As Christians, what does all of this mean for us?

It can sometimes be tempting to focus on the darker side of life, particularly as we enter a time of year when the days grow shorter and the chill sets in. But with Jesus, we know that "the night is far gone, and the day is at hand" (Roman's 13:12). This weekend, amid the feasting and fun, let's come together to not only support each other, but to remember those who have died in faith: these men and women set the example of steadfastness and faithfulness to the Lord, sometimes in the face of persecution. We serve a God who loves us and who has not given us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7).