October. Cooler weather. (We’re one of the few places where folks are excited that the temps fall into the low 90’s) Shorter days. Daylight Savings Time. (Yes, it’s on October 31st) The beginning of several celebrations here in the United States. The one coming soonest is Halloween. I enjoy Halloween. I carve a pumpkin and get some goodies ready for the kids who will come to the door that night trick-or-treating. But others aren’t that excited about Halloween. Some even equate it with satanism and devil worship. Some church communities have made attempts to “Christianize” the day with wholesome events that are considered safer for the children.
Despite the fact that there have always been pagan celebrations of one sort and another that are held around October 31st, Christians have, for centuries, considered October 31st through November 2nd as a time to celebrate all saints, past, present and future.
The belief in the connection of the Christian family, those who have gone before us, those present with us and those we will embrace in the future is deeply rooted in the Christian understanding of salvation, eternal life and the mission of Jesus. Through the centuries this affirmation of our “saintly community” has developed to the present day celebration of All Saints Day, which is November 1st.
What many Christians have forgotten is the celebration of All Saints had its beginnings in a celebration on October 31st called All Hallows’ Eve, where the word Halloween comes from.
To hallow is to make something sacred, but hallow can also be a noun, and is understood that way regarding All Saints Day. All Saints Day is the celebration of those who have gone before us in death to life. Initially the celebration began at sunset the day before, influenced by the Jewish lunar calendar where days begin at sunset, so we have All Hallows’ Eve followed by All Saints Day. October 31st and November 1st.
Those early celebrations were also influenced by pagan New Year’s celebrations which included dressing up as ghosts and goblins in order to ward off evil spirits that were believed to roam the earth that night. This is where our dressing up in costumes comes from, although most of our costumes now seem to be princesses, Jedi knights, and superheroes. Oh, and a few zombies.
November 2nd became a celebration of All Souls, those who have gone before us in death to life that we knew such as family members and personal friends. Together the entire season was called Allhallowtide.
The closest celebration I have experienced here that feels like a celebration of Allhallowtide is the celebration of El Dia de los Muertos. It was my honor and joy to celebrate El Dia de los Muertos a few years ago while attending a Spanish language immersion in Cuernavaca, Mexico. And it continues to remind me of our human connection, to our shared experience of death and a hope in an everlasting life, that we are bound together as a human family in the richness of our diversity within our commonality.
I hope and pray that on this Halloween, on this All Saints Day, you will be able to celebrate. Celebrate family and friends. Celebrate the child that lives in each of us. Celebrate lives lived, and the examples they gave to us of good and gracious living. That we might celebrate those lives yet to be lived, and our responsibility to be examples of good and gracious living for them.
We are indeed one human family. We might not be of one mind. But we are bound together by one heart.
The heart of love.