If you told someone, “I’m sure looking forward to the next three holidays!” they would undoubtedly think you were referring to Halloween, Thanksgiving, and then Christmas. However, there are three holidays coming up just this weekend: Halloween, Day of the Dead, and All Saints Day. I thought it would be interesting to take a look at these three, especially the two that don’t seem to get as much publicity.
Halloween, or All Hallows’ Eve, comes first on the calendar but not in tradition. There are many Gaelic, Celtic, and Pagan influences on the holiday, but it was when these ancient customs and cultures blended with the spread of Christianity that we have the basis for our modern Halloween. Trick-or-treating has its roots in the medieval practice of mumming plays performed on feast days, included All Hallows’ Eve, Christmas, Twelfth Night and Shrove Tuesday. It wasn’t until the early 19th century that a mass immigration of Scots and Irish brought Halloween strongly to America.
Day of the Dead is a true celebration of life. Sometimes referred to as “the Days of the Dead”:
- October 31 is All Hallows Eve,
- November 1 is “el Dia de los Inocentes” or the Day of the Children and All Saints Day, and
- November 2nd is All Souls Day or the Day of the Dead “el Dia de los Muertos”
In Mexico, where most graveyards are publicly owned, families tend the graves of departed relatives to honor their ancestors. In pre-Columbian Mexico the skull was seen as a symbol of life, not death, which is why you see so much brightly decorated skull merchandise this time of year, the modern “sugar skull”.
All Saints Day, or the Feast of All Saints, is celebrated on the first Sunday after Pentecost. It began in 609 AD by Pope Boniface IV, the celebration was originally held in May each year, but only in a chapel in Rome’s St. Peter’s Basilica. Pope Gregory III moved it to November, and in 837, Pope Gregory IV made it an official holiday on November 1st throughout the church (known world). Even in non-Catholic countries, the day is often an official holiday with private and governmental offices closed.
Whatever your traditions, go celebrate! We certainly don’t need reasons to celebrate lately, just the occasion. The celebrations may have a shorter guest list this year, however, the true celebration is in our hearts.