By Patricia McNally
Last year on 31st Oct I was part of a judging panel for a children's fancy dress party. Not the usual ghosts and ghouls dress up event that normally takes place on this evening, but an All Saints Party, to celebrate and reclaim this ancient feast day. The celebration of Halloween has dual origins. The first is in a pre-Christian Celtic feast associated with the Celtic New Year. The second is in the Christian celebration of All Saints Day (Nov. 1st) and All Souls Day (Nov. 2). The word Halloween is derived from All Hallows Eve. "Hallowed,” means “holy". October 31st marks the beginning of "All hallowtide" which concludes with November 2nd, the feast of All Souls. The ancient Celtic peoples who inhabited England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Brittany (NW France) celebrated their New Year's Day on what would be November 1st on our calendar. Prior to their conversion to Catholicism these peoples practiced a pagan religion controlled by a priest class known as Druids. It was believed that evil spirits, demons, ghosts, witches were free to roam around on Halloween and could be enticed by a feast. It is only fitting to re-ignite the Christian side of Halloween by acknowledging and giving honour to the many Saints that have not only shaped our history, but who have also shaped our own particular lives. If we look at our own names, our parents’ names, confirmation names, places where we live, parishes that we belong to, streets we walk down etc, there's no doubt that we will find a connection with a Saint. Saints were people who lived ordinary lives in an extraordinary way, and who placed themselves at the service of God in serving others, while very often risking their own lives. Take St Patrick for example. He brought the faith to Ireland at a time when Ireland was awash with paganism and the People did not know God and so they did not know of His Love for them and that they belonged to God. The Book of Armagh, a manuscript written in the 8th century, states that Saint Patrick fasted on the summit of Croagh Patrick for 40 days and 40 nights in the year 441 and also built a church there. The whole purpose of his prayer was to obtain special blessings and mercy for the Irish people whom he evangelized and loved dearly. It is said that he would not come down from the mountain until God promised him that the People of Ireland would not lose their faith. How are we doing today with the faith that was gifted to us by St Patrick? Do we value the sacrifices that he made for us so that we could be freed from the slavery of paganism or are we undoing and being disrespectful of the work of St Patrick and the Saints of previous generations by focusing on and actively partaking in the pagan side of Halloween? How can we celebrate the same Saint on one day (17th March) and disrespect him on another? We need to ask ourselves what we are really celebrating at this time of the year, and why? Are we celebrating the victory of light over darkness or are we just celebrating darkness? A lot of people celebrate Halloween in a pagan way without realising it, as did I growing up and also into my adult life. I didn't question it, or give it much thought, it was just something that was seen as harmless fun. This is far from the truth. When I came to know about, and experience first hand the dangers of the occult, of opening up to evil spirits and influences, and New Age practices only then were my eyes opened to this whole area, and so I was enlightened about Halloween and it's pagan roots and connection to occult, to the source of these kinds of 'celebrations'. November is a month when we remember our loved ones who have died. It is the month of the Holy Souls. We are encouraged to pray for the dead during this month and also to pray for souls who may have no one left to pray for them. We can’t just assume that all our loved ones are in heaven, although we hope that they are. Through our prayers and Masses offered for them, they can be. Prayer is so powerful. Saying even one Hail Mary each day during the month of November for the Holy Souls could be all someone needs to move from purgatory into Heaven. They in turn can help us tremendously when we pray to them.
By Celebrating and giving our attention to the feast of All Saints we are changing our focus from darkness to light. We allow God's light to shine in a world that needs His light now more than ever. When we highlight the lives of Saints we connect with people whose lives not only inspire, encourage and guide us but also who can help us through prayer. Children love nothing more than dressing up, having parties and receiving lots of sweets!!! And that's exactly what happened at the All Saints Party last year! There were so many little Saints including St Benedict,St Therese of Lisieux Fr Willie Doyle, St Padre Pio and St Teresa of Calcutta, St Adjuctor, Samson and Delilah, St John the Baptist, to name but a few!!
I will always remember this All Saints Party fondly, not only for the fun and joy and excitement that filled the room but also for the surprise that God had in store for me there. I met friends from over twenty years ago whom I had worked with in Dublin! One of whom had sang at my Wedding! - what a beautiful surprise and blessing to meet up again after such a long time! God never fails to surprise us with such encounters when we choose to walk in His ways!
There are lots of ideas and resources online for Celebrating All Saints Day.
Here are some ideas & resources for restoring this beautiful Celebration. https://www.catholicicing.com/all-saints-day-party-ideas-for-kids/ *Organise, or help out at an All Saints Party in your home or Parish. *Have a family cinema night *Have a family meal *Send a text to family and friends wishing them a Happy Feast day of All Saints, or if you know of a particular Saint that might be relevant to a person send them a little quote or thought from that Saint to uplift and inspire. *Decorate your home with items associated with the saints. Avoid Halloween decorations that are associated with the devil or evil things, since they are toxic for the soul. *Share a little gift on All Saints Day that captures the meaning of this day. It doesn't have to be expensive, a simple token that serves as a beautiful reminder about what it means to be a saint. *Attend Mass *Pray the Rosary in honour of the Queen of All the Saints * Light a Blessed candle and pray for deceased family members. The feast day following All Saints Day is All Souls Day. *Food For Thought* -Consider donating what you would normally spend on giving out sweets/ treats to a charity instead. Please consider donating to Mary's Meals Charity who are feeding more than 2.4 million children every school day in their place of education. 5 euro can provide 45 meals for hungry children.10 euro can provide 90 meals & 15 euro would provide for 135 meals! To donate go to www.bit.ly/QuizforMM or contact Martin Colfer on 087 2596159 Thank you Wishing everyone a Very Blessed All Saints Day!