OK, has anyone ever stopped and considered the definition of the word “Hallow”? It is a verb, by the way, and it means, “to consecrate: to render holy by means of religious rites.”
Hallowe’en, technically, means the night before everything is made holy!
A friend of mine recently said we have to rescue Hallowe’en from the world – take it back as the religious festival it is... So today, we are going to learn a little history before we head out into the darkened skies to beg for candy and threaten mischief.
The light within... the story of pumpkins
So, November 1st is All Saints Day; the day we commemorate all the known and unknown saints of the faith. Then comes all Soul’s Day which commemorates all the faithful dead. In Mexico it is called the Day of the Dead.
But I want to back up a bit first... Some 2,000 years ago the Celts, crazy purple people that they were, celebrated the New Year on November 1st. The day marked the end of the warm, growing, harvesting season; and the beginning of the cold, dark, dying season. They also believed that on the night before the changing of the seasons the veil between the two worlds - physical and spiritual - was weakened. This made it easier to see the future and to determine where fate was leading you. So they built bonfires, wore animal skins, danced, prayed, sang and celebrated.
By A.D. 43, Romans had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. In the course of the four hundred years that they ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain.
The first was Feralia, a day in late October when the Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second was a day to honour Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. The symbol of Pomona is the apple and the incorporation of this celebration into Samhain probably explains the tradition of "bobbing" for apples that is practiced today on Halloween.
By the 800s, the influence of Christianity had spread into Celtic lands. In the seventh century, Pope Boniface IV designated November 1 All Saints' Day, a time to honour saints and martyrs. It is widely believed today that the pope was attempting to replace the Celtic festival of the dead with a related, but church-sanctioned holiday. The celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints' Day) and the night before it, the night of Samhain, began to be called All-hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween. Even later, in A.D. 1000, the church would make November 2 All Souls' Day, a day to honour the dead. It was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades, and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels, and devils. Together, the three celebrations, the Eve of All Saints', All Saints', and All Souls', were called Hallowmas.
You can see how this all comes together... but for now I want you to consider that this is a festival of everything that is holy and good about people.
So... what makes a perfect person? What makes a saint? In truth... nothing special.
That is what we learn from the story of Zacchaeus. A wee little unloved tax collector... except.... well, except that God loves him. Jesus loves him. Everything gets turned around because of that realization.
On this, the eve before we celebrate what is good and right and holy in the world, may we remember that it is our faith