Within Catholic liturgical tradition, Jesus Christ is surely the Prince of Tides: Adventide, Christmastide, Passiontide, Paschaltide, Whitsuntide, and Hallowtide are recognized by the Church as special celebrations of redemptive grace occurring throughout the liturgical year.
During the Middle Ages, in Europe’s chiefly a rural culture, work was hard and tedious. Realizing the value of leisure, the Church set aside Sundays and some 30 holy days of obligation within the liturgical year, days celebrated with special festivals of worship and merriment. The Church forbade manual labor while encouraging games, theatricals, music, and song to re-creation the human psyche.
Hallowtide was and remains part of the liturgical year, extending from the evening of October 31, the vigil of All Saints Day through All Souls Day on November 2. The celebration reminds the Church Militant on earth of its union by Baptism and prayer to the Church Suffering in Purgatory and the Church Triumphant in Heaven. This is the essence of the dogma of the Communion of Saints. For nothing, not even death, as St Paul wrote, can separate us from the love of Christ.
At Hallowtide, all the Saints in Heaven, known and unknown, are venerated and their intercession implored. Relief is then offered the Holy Souls in Purgatory through prayers, indulgences, and special Masses.
During the even (late afternoon or evening) of the vigil of the Feast of All Saints—All Hallows in Olde English—children would go “souling”—strolling from door-to-door, singing special “souling” songs about the need to pray for the faithful departed in Purgatory, that they might soon enter into heavenly glory.
Grateful housewives rewarded singers with small “souling cakes,” eaten while still warm: round loaves of sweet quickbreads or small cakes looking like thick cookies, each marked with a cross of raisins or currants.
Hallowe’en is also a time for laughing at Satan.
Never heard that before? Well, I’m not surprised. Our sophisticated age has cast off many a lively Catholic tradition. It’s unfortunate because children crave traditions. When God is divorced from the family, children’s lives are the poorer for the loss.
Catholic children used to be taught that Satan loathes being reminded that he has forever lost the divine joy of the Beatific Vision. Immersed in spiteful arrogance and conceit, the supreme narcissist absolutely detests being laughed at.
Regrettably, mistaken Fundamentalist attitudes have come to fore in recent years. Hallowe’en is regarded as a fearsome night given over to evil; a night belonging to Satan and demonic minions.
Bosh! Catholic spirituality is much healthier. We yield nothing to evil; surrender nothing created by God to Satan. Catholics sang hymns extolling Christ’s victory over “death, hell and sin / which Adam’s transgression had wrap’t us in.” while advised to “Rejoice and be merry, set sorrow aside!” for, on Calvary, Satan lost. Death fell victim to Life.
By wearing costumes betokening scary ghosts, red-suited devils, and evil witches children ridiculed “death, hell, and sin,” in light of Christ’s Resurrection. In time, more secularized societies lost the original Catholic intent. Costumes became scary and Hallowe’en was turned into a fright-fest.
On All Souls Day, pray for our brothers and sisters, the Holy Souls in Purgatory: Eternal rest grant to them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
And, on All Saints Day, rejoice with our brothers and sisters now beholding the face of God: Blessed be God in His Angels and in His Saints!