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Halloween

This week is Halloween. Every store has been jamb-packed with get-ups of various kinds, to accommodate every desire. TV ads have appeared from time-to-time inviting us to haunting events in the area.

From a Christian perspective, Halloween signals the Feasts of All Saints and All Souls, Nov. 1 and 2.

I enjoy going to the Internet to find information. One has to be careful as info found on the web is not always accurate. I believe the following piece from www.allaboutgod.com, a service of All About GOD Ministries, Inc., is fairly descriptive of Halloween. I offer it for your consideration since the article concluded with an invitation to share it with friends.

When we consider the history of Halloween from a Christian perspective, it may seem as if the modern holiday has gotten out of hand. After all, doesn’t Halloween glorify evil? Is it right to send our children out as devils and vampires? Should we emphasize the saints, whose nearly forgotten feast day is the reason for Halloween?

Hallow is the same word for “holy” that we find in the Lord’s Prayer, and e’en is a contraction of “evening.” The word Halloween itself is a shortened form of “All Hallows Eve,” the day before All Saints Day. This holiday, properly understood and celebrated with all of its fun trappings, can be a way for us to deepen our understanding of faith.

Halloween has its roots in the ancient Celtic tribes of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and Brittany. On Oct. 31, the tribes would celebrate the festival of Samhain. 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.

The tradition of carving pumpkins for Halloween began with hollowing out turnips. The carved turnip I’m holding here was grown organically in our gardens managed by one of our ministries, White Violet Center for Eco-Justice.

Does your family carve a pumpkin to place on your porch for Halloween? If so, then you can once again thank the Irish for the tradition. Actually, the custom began with a turnip. People would hollow out the turnips and place lighted candles inside to scare off the evil spirits. When the Irish came to America, they discovered the pumpkin as a larger substitute for the turnip. And so, we now carve pumpkins instead of turnips for Halloween.

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 Nov. 1. The night before became known as All Hallow’s Eve or “holy evening.” Eventually, the name was shortened to the current Halloween.

On Nov. 2, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates All Souls Day.

The purpose of these feasts is to remember those who have died, whether they are officially recognized by the Roman Catholic 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.

Happy Halloween!

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Sister Mary Beth Klingel

Sister Mary Beth is a general officer on the leadership team of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. She has previously served as an elementary school teacher, pastoral minister and director of novices.

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