All Hallows’ Eve

Halloween or All Hallows’ Eve is not a liturgical feast on the Catholic calendar, but the celebration has deep ties to the Liturgical Year. These three consecutive days ”” Halloween, All Saints Day and All Souls Day ”” bring to mind the Communion of Believers. On earth we are called the “Church Militant,” because we are striving to get to heaven.  We pray for the “Church Suffering,” the souls in Purgatory, especially on All Souls Day (and even the entire month of November). We also honor and ask the intercession of the “Church Triumphant,” those souls, whether canonized or uncanonized, who are in Heaven.

In England, saints or holy people are called “hallowed,” hence All Saints Day was  “All Hallow’s Day.” The evening before the feast became popularly known as “All Hallows’ Eve” or even shorter, “Hallowe’en.”

Since Vatican II, some liturgical observances have been altered, one being that the practice of a “fast prior to a feast” is no longer required. Originally, the days preceding great solemnities, like Christmas and All Saints Day, had a penitential nature, requiring abstinence from meat, fasting and prayer. Although no longer required by the Church, it is still a devout practice to prepare oneself spiritually before great feast days.

Since it occurred the night before All Saints Day, Halloween was a vigil and required fasting. Many recipes and traditions were attached to this evening, including pancakes, boxty bread, barmbrack (Irish fruit bread with hidden charms), colcannon (a combination of cabbage and boiled potatoes). The night was also known as “Nutcracker Night” in England, where the family gathered around the hearth to enjoy cider and nuts and apples.

Halloween is the preparation for the two upcoming feasts of All Saints Day and All Souls Day. Although neither demons nor witchcraft have a place in a Catholic celebration, some macabre elements can be incorporated into Halloween. Skulls are often used in Catholic art as a “memento mori” or “reminder of death,” since it is good to remind ourselves of our impending death and the Poor Souls in Purgatory. But, ultimately, everything points to the glory of Heaven and the saints surrounding the throne of God.