Today is All Hallows' Eve ... yes I know many of you reading this will say 'It's actually Halloween' but it's one and the same thing.
Except All Hallows' Eve came first!!!
You may not know this but October 31 is actually the first of three significant days in the Christian church - the Allhallowtide season which includes All Hallows' Eve, All Hallows' Day ... otherwise known as All Saints' Day (Nov 1) ... and All Souls' Day (Nov 2). And it's really all about 'remembrance'. Remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all those who have left his life.
Let's work backwards.
All Souls' Day is also known as the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed and the Day of the Dead. It's a day set aside to pray and remember the souls of those who have died. This is observed by Roman Catholics and other Christian denominations annually on November 2.
All Saints' Day, as I said, is also known as All Hallows' Day, the Feast of All Saints, the Feast of All Hallows, the Solemnity of All Saints, and Hallowmas. It's a Christian solemnity or festival in which we celebrate, honour and remember all the saints of the church, known or unknown. It's celebrated on November 1st and is actually considered to be one of the 'holiest' days of the year.
And before All Hallows' Day comes ... All Hallows' Eve .. the day or evening before All Hallows' Day!
So how did the day before a most holy and solemn day become what it is today - Halloween - considered to be a day which appears to be associated with ghosts and witches and spooky stuff, and evil?
One theory is that it may all go back to the ancient Celtic harvest festivals and particularly the Gaelic festival of Samhain, which is believed to have pagan roots and when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. Some believe that when Christianity came along, Samhain was Christianized as All Hallows' Day, along with its eve. In the eighth century, it's said that Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honour all saints. Soon, All Saints' Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before the holy day became known as All Hallows' Eve, and later Halloween. Anyway, it's thought that long ago in Ireland and Britain, Christians would come together on this day to ask for God's blessing and protection from the evil in the world.
Another theory is that Halloween began solely as a Christian vigil of All Hallows' Day. It was celebrated in Ireland and Scotland in the 19th century, and it's thought that Irish and Scottish migrants brought many Halloween customs to North America, and then through American influence, Halloween spread to many other countries by the 21st century with it's activities like trick-or-treating, carving jack-o-lanterns out of pumpkins, festive gatherings, donning costumes and eating treats.
It's now a hugely commercial day but some people do try to resist it and in some parts of the church, instead of Halloween parties, Light Parties are held instead .. to emphasise good rather than evil. Light rather than darkness.
So today instead of playing a spooky song (and there are lots of them) and talking about spells and witches and all that weird, if fun, stuff, I'm turning to a prayer for All Hallows' Eve.
It's just one of the resources produced by the church on this day ... this one is from the Church of England and the Mission Theology Advisory Group which is an ecumenical group formed in partnership between Churches Together in Britain and Ireland and the
Church of England...
So let's pray ...
We will face all that most concerns us:
our fears, the shadowed places of the mind;
the coming of winter darkness;
the cold thin place between waking and sleep.
We call to mind the powerless, the lonely,
those who most fear the knock at the door;
all those deceived by the world’s empty promises;
all those cowed by menaces or threats.
We stand with those weak in body, mind or spirit
and those seduced by treats or hurt by tricks.
Lord, your light shines into every darkness.
You told us: pray ‘deliver us from evil’.
Your Spirit gives us hope, gives us courage,
a candle in the window unhurt by the wind.