The Feast of All Hallows (Halloween)

Published 9:31 am Wednesday, October 31, 2012

By the Rev. Bill King

The custom of celebrating the feast of All Hallows or All Saints’ Eve is a tradition going back to at least the ninth century.

It began as the autumn-time Christian feastday taking the place of an ancient harvest feast in the Celtic Church of Ireland and northern Britain.

It has long been the feastday in the western Christian Church for remembering the communion of saints – those of every generation who have gone before us; those saints in our midst today; and all of the faithful who will come after us.

The eve or evening before the feastday of All Hallows came to be known as Halloween or the eve (een) of All Hallows.

In the evening before the great feastday when the people would come together in church to ask for God’s blessing and protection from evil in the world and to seek strength and courage to live out the gospel.

Some of the people would dress up as saints or heroes of the church, and others would dress as evil spirits, thus depicting the battle between good and evil in the world.

Late at night, the people would go to the church cemetery for a service of remembrance for the saints (the baptized) who had gone before them in life and death.

Halloween is a traditional Christian feastday, not just some recent “hallmark” holiday or some commercial fall festival. It is certainly not an evening for “tricks” or anything harmful to people or property. It is the evening before All Saints’ Day when we give thanks for all the saints of every generation who have battled evil in order to strengthen the faith.

On All-Hallows Eve, take out your family photo album and share some stories about those who have died. Remember them by name in a prayer of thanksgiving as you have your evening meal on Oct. 31.

The Rev. Bill King is rector at Trinity Episcopal Church in Clanton.