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From The Chaplain's Desk
Oct. 2015 Chaplain's Corner: Halloween

By Charles Dimmick, CT State Grange Chaplain

  OCTOBER 15, 2015 --

October 31 is Halloween. Most people seem to forget that this was originally a religious holiday. It is the All Hallows Evening before All Hallows Day, or All Saints Day, an ancient festival observed at various times in the early Church, but regularized somewhere around 800 A.D. as being on November 1st. Later it became customary to recognize November 2nd as All Souls Day, so that the three days formed a “triduum”. 

The fundamental belief behind all three days is that there is a spiritual bond, or communion, between those who have died and gone to heaven and those of us who are still living. We are reminded of this when we recite the Apostle’s Creed and affirm that we believe in the communion of saints. The exact nature of this “communion of saints” has been argued among the various Christian denominations for centuries, although most agree that it exists. And indeed it is a comfort to know that our friends and family who have passed to “that great grange above” are not completely cut off from those of us left behind. Also, there exists a spiritual bond among all of us Christians still on earth, as explained in the twelfth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, because “Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.  For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.“

Getting back to Halloween, one might ask what is the connection between all this and the children running around from door to door, dressed as witches and skeletons and spiders and such, and reciting “trick or treat”. Sam Portaro (1998) states that “ In the carnival celebrations of All Hallows’ Eve our ancestors used the most powerful weapon in the human arsenal, the power of humor and ridicule to confront the power of death.” Thus, dressing up in costumes representing scary things is a way of thumbing our nose at evil and death.  This is a great prelude to All Saints day, where we celebrate the victory of goodness over Satan and all his works.  What about “trick-or-treat”? This has its origins in a custom from late medieval times, called “souling”, where on  the eves of All Saints Day and of All Souls Day children and poor people would dress up in costumes, and go from door to door, begging for “soul cakes” in return for praying for the dead. The custom is mentioned by Shakespeare in his play “The Two Gentlemen of Verona”. Somewhere in the 19th century this evolved into our familiar “trick-or-treat”. 

By this time it is probably impossible to restore the religious tradition behind the celebration of Halloween, but when the little imps, witches, devils, skeletons, and Darth Vader show up on your doorstep it won’t hurt to give yourself a reminder of how this all started.


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