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All Hallows' Eve

Halloween is All Hallows’ Eve, the vigil of All Saints’ Day, which was instituted as a feast by Pope Gregory III in the eighth century. Going door to door, collecting treats, and carving veggies into lanterns were all ancient Celtic traditions associated with the harvest, but the spookier side of Halloween was never occult or even pagan; it was all Catholic.


All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days commemorate the dead, in heaven and in purgatory, respectively. When Catholics celebrating the feasts of All Saints and All Souls talked about ghosts, they did not mean monsters; they meant the souls of persons who had died and gone to heaven, purgatory, or hell. The word “ghost” is of Germanic origin and comes from the Old English gast, meaning “soul,” “life,” “breath,” “good or bad spirit,” “Angel,” or “demon.” Christian texts in Old English use gast to translate the Latin spiritus, which is why we used to refer to the third Person of the Holy Trinity as “the Holy Ghost,” until the general usage of the word had shifted enough to make that confusing to people, and now we say “Holy Spirit” instead.


All Hallows’ Eve, as the vigil of the important solemnity of All Saints, was historically a day of required fasting and abstinence. Since 1962, fasting and abstinence are recommended but no longer required.


In honor of celebrating All Hallows’ Eve, try fasting (giving up one thing) to prepare for the great solemnity of All Saints Day! A couple of examples of fasting… Fast from TV, computer, and phone screens, abstain (fast) from meat, fast from your favorite food, from cream in your coffee, sweetener in your tea, your favorite book, etc.… It does not have to be extreme; it is fasting from the little things that brings great joy to the Lord.   


Allhallowtide is actually a kind of triduum: three days of commemoration that includes All Hallows Eve (October 31, shortened Hallowe’en), All Saints Day (All Hallows Day, November 1), and All Souls Day (November 2). As with other major feasts, celebration of All Saints Day begins on the vigil, which is why secular culture celebrates Halloween on the night of October 31st, but then does nothing on the actual feast days that follow.








Resources from: The Catholic All Year by: Kendra Tierney; The Catholic World Report