This post from 2007 is being reissued in 2011. It is among several entries linked in the “Saints” label at the right.
Halloween, All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day are often linked together as would make sense since they fall on consecutive days. However, their connections are not as strong as you might imagine.
The name Halloween means “All Hallows (Holy) Eve.” Recall the name is a misnomer: Years before Christianity, the Druids marked the start of winter with the burning of stalks around November 1. Also, it was believed that demons and devils roamed the earth on this night, and the way to ward them off included offering them sweets or disguising oneself in a costume as a demon and roaming with these evil spirits. Obviously part of these traditions have lasted today.
All Saints Day
All Saints Day, on the other hand, is a feast established by the Church to honor all of the saints in heaven who do not have a special day on one of the other 364 days of the year. These include the many saints who have not been recognized with canonization. Some of your deceased relatives and friends are likely included in those remembered on All Saints’ Day.
You might think that the Church established this holiday on November 1 to counteract the pagan practices on Halloween. Actually, All Saints’ Day was originally held in May. In 844 it was transferred to November 1 so that the many pilgrims who came to Rome to celebrate the day could be fed more easily with food from the harvest.
All Souls Day
All Souls Day on November 2 was established in the eleventh century. The Church has always believed that it should pray for “the souls of the faithfully departed.” The tradition around All Souls’ Day includes the Catholic belief in purgatory, a condition in which those who have died are “purged” or made clean from their sins in preparation for meeting God in the full joy of heaven. People on earth can aide the souls in purgatory by praying for them, doing works of charity, and offering Masses for the dead. Today, in a parish bulletin, there are usually people, both living and dead, listed who will have Masses offered for them on a particular day and time.
A tradition in the United States and in other countries is for family members to visit and decorate the graves of their deceased family members on All Souls’ Day. Also, names of the dead are collected and given to a priest who offers special prayers for them during the month of November.
In years past, Catholic schools were usually closed on All Saints’ Day. It gave the students a chance to really “celebrate” Halloween night with no school the next day. That’s probably not the case at your school today, though you may have the chance to celebrate Mass that day with all of the student body.
- What do you imagine will happen to you after you die?
- Who is someone who has died with whom you feel a special connection? Explain the connection.
- If there were a blueprint for becoming a saint, what would it include?
Additional Lessons and Assignments
- Present more information on the Church’s belief in the final purification of the dead, known as purgatory. See the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1030-1032, for more information.
- Lead a discussion about respect for the dead, including Church regulations on the burial of the dead, autopsies, organ donation, and cremation (see CCC, 2299-2301).
- Have the students write and share short biographies of deceased family members who have taken their place with the communion of the saints.
- Watch a film on the life of a saint.