In October we would have noticed all sorts of things around us to remind us of Halloween. Most people, understandably, would be unlikely to link this with religious festivals. We would be observing all sorts of ugly images.
However, Halloween has a mixed history, part of which is related to the Western Christian feast for All Hallows, also known as All Saints, which falls on November 1. It began with the observance of “Allhallowtide” which was a time in the year dedicated to remembering the dead – including saints and martyrs.
Some people believe that many Halloween traditions were linked with Celtic or Gaelic harvest festivals. Others suggest that these may have been made Christian and expressed as “All Hallows’ Day” within the early Church. Other academics believe that it originated as a solely Christian holiday which was mainly celebrated in Ireland and Scotland. Irish and Scottish migrants brought these Halloween customs to North America and elsewhere in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
This focus on remembering and respecting those who have died became a significant part of the lives of many people, which added to their lives and cultures, rather than simply letting people die and eventually become forgotten. Halloween can stand against the temptation to push away grief when someone we love has died and, rather, dare to enter feelings of grief with deeper respect.
Even though Halloween may be a tradition which has not been a significant part of our religious life, we may find that it can be a gift to us if we study more about its history and tradition – something which we may value.