For most of us, when we think of the end of October, that time after our thanksgiving celebrations, we think of ‘Hallowe’en’, an evening of ‘trick or treats’, of dressing up in strange outfits and parading or partying. In the ancient Celtic calendar, October 31 was the last day of the year, before the celebration of the new year festival of Samhain (‘sow-en’). Mary Ellen, comments on this in ‘liturgy training Publications’ of the Archdiocese of Chicago.
“Being ‘between years’, the day before Samhain was considered ‘a very magical time, when the dead walk among the living and the veils between past, present, and future may be lifted. The lighting of bonfires, the wearing of costumes and masks, and leaving food out for revealers were all part of this festival that honoured the spirits, and ushered them to their ultimate home, and gave courage to those who may have been fearful on this ghostly night.”
As the Christian Church developed its own calendar of holy days often built upon local customs, using it as a time for teaching and celebrating their faith. The dating for Christmas and Easter follow this pattern, and so does All Saint’s Day.
All Saint’s Day, November 1, parallels the Celtic imagery of those who have died being ushered into a place of final rest, by celebrating “God’s harvesting into heaven the faithful of every age, culture and walk of life….” The readings for All Saints Day emphasize God’s ‘heavenly banquet’, God’s victory over death’ and God’s care for all people. (Isaiah 25:6-9, Revelation 21:1-6). This theme of God’s rules and God’s care runs through the readings of the next few weeks, culminating with the last Sunday of our current church year (November 22), when we celebrate our faith in the ultimate victory of Christ’s realm of love.