I jumped into the fray of a facebook discussion a few months ago. Some people were wondering if our town could move Halloween to always be the last Saturday in October. They posited that this way the kids could Trick or Treat and the adults could party and it would never be on a school night.
NO!, said I. You can shift Trick or Treating, sure, but Halloween is All Hallows Eve, the night before All Saints Day. You can’t move a major feast day to make it better match the secular calendar. Be aware that it’s a religious observance for Christians, said I….nicely…
And I was called out. But good. Samhein, the pagan religious festival to welcome in the harvest and usher in the dark half of the year is Oct 31-Nov 1. I should be aware that Christians took over the holiday, rudely, and the real rudeness of “moving Halloween” isn’t to my feast day, but to the idea that Samhein only exists for Trick or Treating, or parties, or as the Eve to All Saints Day.
I apologized. I agreed I viewed things from my biases. I thanked them for pointing it out to me. The poster then thanked *me* for taking the criticism well. She said that this time of year is so wearying to her as a Pagan, and she wasn’t expecting to hear thankfulness from me.
It’s a tricky thing being part of a religion that built it’s feast and fast days around the already natural rhythms and remembrances of the cultures it took over. I for sure don’t have the answers to how to do it well – how to fully live into the church calendar, while keeping awareness of it’s past in other religion’s calendars. How do you enjoy the benefits of the other religion’s rituals within your own while not appropriating those rituals as solely your own?
I think being willing to apologize, to empathize, and to express gratitude is a decent start, though.
Perhaps another is in realizing that All Hallows Eve, Oct 31, isn’t a church holiday. It’s a secular one, with the candy and costumes and Trick or Treating. It’s Samhein, with the Pagan observances and rituals. But it’s not “one of ours”. Bluntly: it’s a Fierce Day.
I usually strive not to eat the Halloween treats on Halloween, but to hold off until All Saints. That tension between my trying to being in this world but of God’s kingdom is made very clear when I do so. This year, I will add awareness that for others, this is a religious day, and I will not-eat candy in remembrance of them.
All Saints, now. All Saints is a biggun’. It’s also known as “Hallowmas” (thus the Hallows Eve of Halloween). Falling on Nov 1, it is one of the Principal Feasts of the liturgical calendar, and one of the days recommended for baptism. (Fun fact: I was confirmed on All Saints Sunday.) Bluntly: it is not just a Feast Day, it is a FEAST DAY.
For me, it’s when I finally dig into that there Halloween Candy. I sing “I sing a song of the Saints of God” with my kids. We make large soft pretzels, a nod to the Eastern European tradition of making figure 8 pretzels to look like Saints with their arms crossed in prayer. (Note: “make large soft pretzels” = buy them frozen and heat them in the oven). I plan a decadent dinner (this year, it’s this Buffalo Chicken Pull-Apart Bread, just ’cause.)
The next day is All Souls, Nov 2, a lesser feast of Commemoration of All Faithful Departed. This is a quieter day for me. I bake souls cakes, and find photos of departed friends and family. The kids and I light a candle and pray for them. I tell them stories about these people who we loved and who loved us. Now that my youngest is very into theology, I anticipate some talking about the afterlife.
Many churches will choose to celebrate All Saints on Sunday Nov 3 – as a Principal Feast, this is one of the Feast Days that will “trump” a usual Sunday Eucharist Feast. So, if you want to pick a fun Sunday to check out an Episcopal church – this is a good one!
I heard a marvelous sermon once declaring that we, Christians, are Resurrection People. We move about this world with confidence because we know that light has, and does, and will always conquer the dark. Remembering our saints (and maybe “being one too”), and our departed, isn’t a sad ritual for me, and I’m trying to show that context to my family. We are Resurrection People. All Saints and All Souls ties into the very fabric of what makes us Christians.
And I am grateful for the threads in that fabric from the religions and cultures that were steamrolled by Christianity. I have confidence in their resurrection too – that all God’s creation is a part of this.
Blessed All Hallows, All Saints, and All Souls Days to you and yours. Boo.