I love Halloween. I always have. In fact, I have clear memories of my Dad saying that Halloween was his favorite holiday. Of course he said that about Thanksgiving.... and he was pretty big on Christmas too! :) That said... Halloween has been a big tradition and a big favorite during my life time on this earth.
Some of my dearest memories are of going to "Groby's Garden Center" and picking out the perfect pumpkin. This was almost as challenging as picking out the perfect Christmas Tree. The Carving of the pumpkin was my Dad's job, but we were there to help clean out the pumpkin and separate the seeds, which we would later roast. Beggars night was always exciting... choosing our constumes, going out with our cousins and seeing friends along the way. It was pure fun! Years later, after my Father died, I began taking a small pumpkin down to the cemetery and placing it on his grave in honor of his love of Halloween.
As I began my faith journey and eventual conversion to Catholicism, it became very clear that many of my Christian Brothers and Sisters frowned on the holiday, and suggested that in celebrating Halloween, I embracing evil. Now I will not deny that that I am a sinner.... but I do not choose to embrace evil, black magic or the dark arts. I am a Christian, and my heart belongs to God, to His son Jesus Christ and to the Holy Spirit. So before tossing out all my Halloween decorations and traditions, I decided to do some research about the origins of Halloween and the Christian connection to Halloween. Happily, I have learned quite a bit!
From the American Catholic website, I learned:
"The true origins of Halloween lie with the ancient Celtic tribes who lived in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany. For the Celts, November 1 marked the beginning of a new year and the coming of winter. The night before the new year, they celebrated the festival of Samhain, Lord of the Dead. During this festival, Celts believed the souls of the dead—including ghosts, goblins and witches—returned to mingle with the living. In order to scare away the evil spirits, people would wear masks and light bonfires.
When the Romans conquered the Celts, they added their own touches to the Samhain festival, such as making centerpieces out of apples and nuts for Pomona, the Roman goddess of the orchards. The Romans also bobbed for apples and drank cider—traditions which may sound familiar to you. But where does the Christian aspect of the holiday come into play?
In 835, Pope Gregory IV moved the celebration for all the martyrs (later all saints) from May 13 to November 1. The night before became known as All Hallow’s Even or “holy evening.” Eventually the name was shortened to the current Halloween. On November 2, the Church celebrates All Souls Day.
The purpose of these feasts is to remember those who have died, whether they are officially recognized by the Church as saints or not. It is a celebration of the “communion of saints,” which reminds us that the Church is not bound by space or time.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that through the communion of saints “a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth. Between them there is, too, an abundant exchange of all good things” (#1475). "
And so, in this spirit, I will continue to decorate for Halloween, to put pumpkins on my Father's grave and to hand out candy to trick or treaters, and to enjoy Autumn, and all it's riches and blessings. God Bless each and every one of you!