1 in England, where in fact, most of the secular customs that are now performed during Halloween were first practiced. The Druids practiced many superstitious customs depending on their beliefs. They had two big feast days and one of these was their New Year’s Eve which was celebrated around the 31st of October. On this day they believed that all those who had died during the past year would rise from their graves and come to spend a last evening by the hearth where they had spent their days of the past. The Druids believed that at midnight all these souls would walk out of the town to be taken by the Lord of Death to the afterlife from where the souls would be able to tranmigrate.2 They also feared that if these souls were able to recognize them, that they would drag them down into the afterlife with them. The townspeople therefore wore costumes so as not to be recognizable. They wore these costumes as they escorted the souls of the dead out to meet the Lord of Death. It is easy to see how the custom of wearing costumes (i.e., of demons, witches, etc.) on Halloween has never had anything to do with those customs of Christianity!
When Catholicism came to England and Ireland, it encountered this very popular pagan custom. The popes and bishops became aware that they were going to have to combat this particular custom by stringent means. They therefore set this day aside in honor of the saints in Heaven and the following day as a day of prayer for the souls of all the deceased. The Church made up a whole beautiful set of customs and prayers to be done for the honor of the saints and the relief of the souls in Purgatory. The Litany of the Saints was chanted and the living went to the cemetery to pray at the graveside of their dearly beloved deceased. The feast of All Hallow’s Eve became thus a most holy day.
|It is an impressive, unforgettable sight to look upon the hundreds and often thousands of lights quietly burning in the darkness and dreary solitude of a cemetery.|
People call them "lights of the holy souls"
Soul Cakes were eaten, representinga soul being freed from Purgatory. (for recipe, click HERE)
"Trick or Treat?"
After hundreds of years of the superstitions of the pagans still being subtly supported by the Devil in diverse ways, the Protestant Reformation came along and blew life into the uglier side of the Halloween rituals. The Protestants went about knocking upon doors of Catholic families as if they were beggars coming for the soul cakes. The Catholics were greeted by cold water or other nasty tricks. One can see again the unCatholic origin of this standard which is so widely practiced now on Halloween.
The mischievous tricks of the Halloween pranksters had become so out of hand by the days of World War II, that in fact, the day was known as Mischief Night. And like anything and everything that honors the Devil and detracts from the glory due to God, the ugly customs of the pagan holiday of Halloween were promoted and spread and practiced in greater malice until they became what we now know them to be.
We can easily see simply by reading the history of this holiday that what had been a pagan custom was combated by the Church for an honorable and charitable reason and how the Devil has used it in a perverted manner in order to destroy, if possible, what should be a ritual of beautiful custom. We have a duty, as Catholics, to practice ONLY those rituals designed for the honor of God and the relief of the suffering souls and given to us by Holy Mother Church as a means of furthering our salvation also. To partake in the practice of pagan and devil-honoring rituals is to offend God in a most demeaning way. We should therefore strive rather to return to the beautiful customs of our forefathers and practice in its entirety and with all the purity of its original intention, the customs of All Hallow’s Eve.
1 The Druids were a people practicing a most cruel and inhumane paganism, similar to that of the barbaric Aztecs.
2 Transmigration: The belief that a soul cam move from one object or being to another. Hindus also believe in this, claiming that those who live well will return to their next life in a body of higher caste and that those who lived badly will return as animals or insects or such like.
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For Catholic customs of All Souls Day around the world, click HERE , which is an adaptation from the Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs by Fr. Francis Weiser