Just as Halloween is known for being the day when the veil is thinnest between the worlds, the two days following it also remember those who have passed away, whether they are family or Christian martyrs.
November 1st is known by a variety of names: Hallowmas, All Hallow's Day and All Saints' Day, and November 2nd is All Soul's Day.
The tradition of celebrating the saints and martyrs has been marked by Christians ever since the 4th century but it was only formalized for the first time in 609 AD when Pope Boniface IV decreed that all martyrs should also be celebrated on May 13th, during something he called the Feast of All Holy Martyrs. In 837 AD Pope Gregory IV extended the festival to include saints, renaming the festival the Feast of All Saints and changing the date to November 1st and the festival has been marked on that date ever since.
In many Eastern churches it is celebrated on the first Sunday of Pentecost in May or Early June.
Candles are lit during the religious holiday and it is a time to remember dead relatives and loved ones, with different countries celebrating it in a variety of ways.
In Poland, people pay respect to the dead family members, clean their tombs and place flowers and candles on top of their graves.
The French version of the day, known as La Toussaint, is also marked by placing flowers and wreaths on tombs and graves.
Over in the Philippines, Catholic families pray at the grave of departed loved ones and remember their dead relatives.
In Mexico, today is known as El Dia de los Inocentes which is dedicated to children, first of the two day celebration known as El Dia de los Muertos or the Day of the Dead.
Parents of deceased children commonly leave offerings of toys on the Day of the Innocents. Small offerings of alcohol are sometimes left for adults. It is easy to see why these celebrations can be heartbreaking, even to outsiders.
The skull is a common symbol of the holiday and it is common for women to paint all or one-half of their face with a skull. The half-skull painted on the face, particularly of a youthful woman, represents the brief transition between life and death.
All Souls’ Day is usually the day after All Saints’ Day and is all about praying for the souls of the dead so they can leave purgatory and go to heaven. During All Souls’ prayers Christians ask for God’s mercy for them. This is also the day the Book of the Dead is opened near the alter of churches to allow people to write the names of their relatives that they want to be remembered.
If the date falls on a Sunday a Mass of All Souls is held, as well as morning and evening prayers for the dead. All Souls’ Day tends to be more prevalent in European Catholic churches but is related to similar events worldwide. In China there is the Chinese Ghost Festival.
Hallowe’en – which literally means ‘holy evening’, dates back to the pagan times and is thought to originate with the Celtic pagan festival of Samhain. Samhain was a celebration of the end of the harvest season, meaning ‘summer’s end’.
Gaels in this period are thought to have believed this time of year was also when the walls between the worlds were thin and porous and enabled spirits to pass through. Gaels feared the return of spirits through this thin wall between the worlds because they thought they might damage their crops for the next season. As a result, to appease any spirits that would creep through, they would set up places at their dinner tables and offer the spirits food and drink. Bonfires would also be lit to scare off evil spirits.
Trick or treating started in Ireland, Scotland and Wales and involved people dressing up in costumes and knocking on doors asking for food. The groups would offer up poems and songs in exchange for the food.
This trick or treat tradition evolved into children exchanging prayers for the dead in exchange for ‘soul cakes’ in the 11th century in a tradition called ‘souling’. These soul cakes were sweet with a cross on the top and they were intended to represent a spirit being freed from purgatory when eaten.
By the 19th century, this had evolved into a tradition where children would sing songs, tells jokes and read poems instead of prayers for pieces of fruit and money. Later, the children would play threatening pranks on people to get them to hand over sweets.
The name ‘trick or treat’ was first used in America in 1929 after immigrants took traditions surrounding the day overseas.
People first started dressing up as souls of the dead, angels and saints for Halloween hundreds of years ago. The origins of doing this – particularly among the trick or treaters – was because people believed impersonating the spirits in this way would offer protection from them.
This goes back to the Samhain festival when people would decorate their homes to ward off bad spirits. They used to carve turnips and over time this evolved into carving pumpkins. This is believed to be because when Irish immigrants were in America they could only find pumpkins to carve. The pumpkin carving tradition took off properly in the 1920s.
The term ‘Jack O’Lantern’ is believed to have come from the folk story of Stingy Jack who tricked the devil into buying him a drink. Because of this, when he died he wasn’t allowed into heaven or hell but instead was trapped by the devil instead a burning ember, which was kept inside a turnip.
Source - Metro
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