Halloween explanations

Halloween

My ten-year old son is especially bothered by scary images at Halloween.  Ghouls, zombies, demons – they all make him anxious.  He asked me the other day why everything had to be so scary at Halloween so I decided to make it an article this week both for your benefit and for mine!

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Halloween is actually derived from All Hallow’s Eve, which means the Holy Evening, named so because it falls before All Saints’ Day on November 1.  It was originally simply the vigil before this holy celebration honoring all of the martyrs who had died for their faith and the saints who walked the earth through their long lives, always serving God.  Honoring those holy ones who have died was the original inspiration behind Halloween.  But through the years, customs have changed the holiday.

Trick-or-treating began from the custom in the Middle Ages that those who had died without being reconciled to someone would appear as a ghost to be released through forgiveness and prayer.  “Treats” were given to them as a peace offering to avert any “tricks” that they might perform.  Over time, living people also came to houses for reconciliation, using masks to protect themselves from embarrassment and shame.

As time passed, the poor would go door-to-door offering their prayers for the dead in exchange for treats – often called soul cakes.  Still today, children in Portugal and Spain go to neighbors’ houses and instead of saying “Trick-or-Treat”, they sing a song to honor the homeowners’ dead loved ones and offer prayers for them.

Jack-o-lanterns, which brightly decorate everyone’s porches on Halloween night, are from the story of Jack who outwitted the devil for his own soul.  When he died, as the story goes, he was not admitted into Heaven since he had never done one kind, unselfless act while on earth.  Upon presenting himself at the gates of Hell, the devil didn’t want him either, still furious at being outwitted.  So Jack was left to wander the earth with only a hollow pumpkin filled with a coal from Hell inside it.

These traditions, many long forgotten, have developed into our modern Halloween with its fun costumes, twinkling pumpkins, and overload of candy.  But if we can remember the origins of Halloween, we will realize that it began as a Catholic celebration of loved ones who have died.  We can teach our children to overlook the commercialism of the holiday to honor saints who walked the earth just like us.holy pumpkins  Holy pumpkins3

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