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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Halloween or All Hallows' Eve?

Our first All Hallows' Eve - 2006
It's that time of year again. The time for pumpkins, scary costumes, hay rides and haunted houses. This festive time of year has been around for centuries and has changed and adapted in different ways. This is a holiday I have always loved and my own idea of it (like the holiday itself ) has also adapted.

My years growing up in New England during the 80's gave way to the regular costumes and trick or treating. Even though I grew up Catholic, my idea of Halloween seemed just like everyone else's ideas. My school would have parties, all the kids dressed up and at night we would go trick or treating. I remember the schools trying to have parties to stop trick or treating because of creepy people putting stuff in the candy. But for some reason these parties never really caught on and trick or treating prevailed. "Just make sure you check for tampered candy before letting your child eat any" experts would say.

As a young mother I questioned how
I would celebrate this holiday
with my children.
As I got older it was as if the kid in me would not let go of this silly holiday. My teen years yielded to haunted hay rides, haunted houses and parties with scary movies. It seemed the scarier the better. In my college years it seemed the scarier and the sexier the costume the better. I got married and became the pregnant lady that passed out candy to the neighborhood children. I would decorate my house all scary-like and I'm pretty sure my hubby enjoyed scaring older children that he thought were to old to be trick or treating.
2007 All Hallows' Eve

As I continued having children I began to think about traditions. Why do we do what we do? Did I want to raise my children the same way I was raised? Which traditions would I hold onto? Which traditions would I recreate? I just could not dress my little babies in scary costumes. I gave way to bubble bee infant costumes and Bob the builder toddler costumes. What was this holiday really about?

My research showed me a Halloween debate between secular and christian origins. Pagans would say that Halloween was always about ghosts and goblins and christians said it was about the Saints. Interesting. I didn't know anyone that celebrated the saints on this day. I dug deeper.

All Hallows' Eve - 2008
Halloween actually started out as Samhain in Ireland. It was an evening of Celtic harvest thanksgiving and much superstition. I began to understand my fascination with this holiday. I mean my grandmother  did travel to this country straight from Ireland. I even know how to do the sign of the cross in Gaelic. Now some people will say the Catholic church stole this holiday and renamed it All Hallows Eve. I say the Catholic Church gave the people something real to celebrate. They were freed from their superstitious fears. Instead of dressing up to disguise themselves from evil or past spirits, they could freely celebrate the people who had gone before them.

Fun with Friends
Soon after this personal discovery of mine, I began to question my own faith and how I would raise my children. (I had fallen away from the practice of the Catholic faith and had a "reversion" back - but I'll save that story for a different post.) I met some other homeschoolers who had an All Hallows' Eve party at a Franciscan Friary. It was totally medieval and seemed to appeal to all us. "Instead of Trick or Treating we are going to a dress up like saints and go to a party. First we go to Mass to remember all these holy souls and then there will be games and candy." I explained to my children.

Bringing All Hallows' Eve to PA - 2009
2010 All Hallows' Eve
All Hallows' Eve is what we have practiced ever since. It is not just about the candy and the costumes or even the harvest. It is so much more. It is a huge party for my friends in heaven. It is a combined celebration of past, present and future. I am able to think of the people gone before me, hang with my friends of the present and reflect upon where my soul will be in the future. My children get to dress up as true heros' and activists that most times would be forgotten. People like Katherine Drexel, Henriette Delille and Pierre Touissant whom did as much as Lincoln for the black people but seemed to only be remembered in Catholic text. All Hallows' Eve is to keep people like them alive our memories. Sure I can read about Saints all year round and I do, and I encourage you to as well. But for one night we can truly celebrate our friends in heaven.

The girls test out their costumes for this year.
My children are preteen and teenagers now and they still love the All Hallows' Eve traditions. We continue to leave the trick or treating behind and celebrate the saints. Sure, I can slap a "Jesus loves you" sticker on a candy bar and pretend that is enough to evangelize. But that message will only get quickly tossed in the trash by the little confection loving tike. And really I should be getting to know my neighbors and community all year long. Of course I still enjoy a few spooks at a local haunted house especially if the admission goes to a local charity, but I remember the true purpose of this holiday.

I have moved around a lot since that first All Hallows' Eve, but I choose to continue this beautiful tradition. I moved to PA and brought this evening alive once more with an evening of Mass, games and candy.  After I moved back to CT my PA friends continued it, I know God is pleased. All Hallows' Eve is a night to bring your heavenly friends back. Bring them back to your Catholic schools and churches. If you are protestant reading this then have a Prophet, Disciple and Christian Marytr party - BTW those are saints! If you don't practice any religion use it as an evening of thanksgiving of the harvest, remember great people in history or your loved ones that have gone before you. Just celebrate goodness.

In these unsure times of "knock out games" and "school shootings" I believe our generation needs more Treats and less tricks. We have so much evil lets celebrate the good. Yeah, Batman and Superman do fight the bad guys but they don't hold a candle to Mother Teresa or Padra Pio!

Happy All Hallows' Eve