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Here’s a news flash: Halloween isn’t just one day, October 31st. It’s part of what are called the “three days of Hallowe’en.” More precisely, Halloween is the first day of the Halloween “Triduum.” (Or Allhallowtide. And Triduum is just a fancy Latin word for “three days.”)
You can get a more complete story from prior posts like – from 2018 – On the THREE days of Hallowe’en, and from 2016 On “All Hallows E’en” – 2016. Including an explanation of how the term “Hallowe’en” developed from the Old English word for “saint,” halig.
Wikipedia noted this three-day period is a “time to remember the dead. That, includes martyrs, saints, and all faithful departed Christians.” The main day of the three is November 1, now “All Saints Day,” previously referred to as Hallowmas. It was established some time between 731 and 741 – over 1,300 years ago – “perhaps by Pope Gregory III.”
Halloween started with an old-time belief that evil spirits were most prevalent during the long nights of winter. And those “old-timers” also thought the “barriers between our world and the spirit world” were at their its lowest and most permeable the night of October 31:
So, those old-time people would wear masks or put on costumes in order to disguise their identities. The idea was to keep the afterlife “hallows” – ghosts or spirits – from recognizing the people in this, the “material world.”
Another idea was to build bonfires. Literally bonefires. (That is, “bonfires were originally fires in which bones were burned.”) That idea came from the thought that evil spirits had to be driven away with noise and fire. Which evolved into this: The “fires were thought to bring comfort to the souls in purgatory and people prayed for them as they held burning straw up high.”
You can see more on Halloween in those prior posts, including details of that strange ghostly light known as ignis fatuus. (From the Medieval Latin for “foolish fire.”) That is, the “atmospheric ghost light seen by travelers at night, especially over bogs, swamps or marshes. It resembles a flickering lamp and is said to recede if approached:”
Or about traveling on All Hallows E’en. If you hiked from 11:00 p.m. until midnight, your had to be careful. If your candle kept burning, that was a good omen. (The person holding the candle would be safe in the upcoming winter “season of darkness.”) But if your candle went out, “the omen was bad indeed.” (The thought was that the candle had been blown out by witches…)
But next comes November 1, All Saints Day, which honors “all the saints and martyrs, both known and unknown.” I.e., special people in the Church. (A saint is defined as one “having an exceptional degree of holiness,” while a martyr is someone “killed because of their testimony of Jesus.”) On the other hand, November 2 – All Souls’ Day – was designed to honor “all faithful Christians … unknown in the wider fellowship of the church, especially family members and friends.’” In other words, the rest of us poor schmucks. (Those of us who have died, that is.)
That is, that third day of the Halloween Triduum – November 2 – is All Souls’ Day. The original idea was to remember the souls of “the dear departed,” illustrated by the painting below. Observing Christians typically remember deceased relatives on the day, and – in many churches – the following Sunday service includes a memorial for all who died in the past year.
All of which makes for the Good News of Halloween. Accordingly, here’s wishing you:
A Happy “All Hallow’s E’en!”
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The upper image is courtesy of Allhallowtide – Wikipedia, with the caption: “A graveyard outside a Lutheran church in Röke, Sweden on the feast of All Hallows. Flowers and lighted candles are placed by relatives on the graves of their deceased loved ones.”
See also the 2017 version of On the THREE days of Hallowe’en., which came just after…
My last post was “Hola! Buen Camino!” It described some of my just-finished five-week trip to Spain (I was hiking – and biking – the Camino de Santiago.) I’ll be writing more about that trip later, but now it’s time to focus on the upcoming three days of Halloween. That set of three feast days is called the Halloween “Triduum,” or in the alternative Allhallowtide.
As to that 2017 Camino trip, I wrote that on October 3 (207) and in Puente La Reina, in Spain – “about eight miles shy of León” on reaching Leon – “we will have hiked 250 miles from Pamplona, in the 21 days since we left on September 13.” Then there was this:
The first 10 days after [Pamplona] – on the hike – were pretty miserable. My left foot constantly throbbed, until it blistered up and got tough. But the day off in Burgos helped a lot. And since then we’ve made good progress. Still, we had to implement a Plan B, which involves renting bikes in Leon and cycling the remaining 194 miles.