The word, "Halloween," comes from "All Hallows Evening." Just as "Christmas Eve" means "the evening before Christmas," so "All Hallows Evening" meant "the evening before the Feast of All Hallows."
Through the wonders of linguistic evolution, "Evening" got turned into "E'en" and then floated over and became attached to "Hallows," knocking the "s" off in the process.
"Hallows" in an archaic word for "saints." We use that old word in the Our Father when we pray, "hallowed be Thy Name"--"may Your Name be kept holy." The same verb also was used by Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address: "But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate--we can not consecrate--we can not hallow--this ground."
- "Hallows" also appears in "Deathly Hallows" in the Harry Potter series."
God is the one Who hallows humans, Who sanctifies them and makes them saints.
Today, "All Hallows Day" is known as "All Saints Day." It is celebrated on November 1st, of course--the day after All Hallows E'en.
All Saints (Hallows) Day
Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome to honor Christian martyrs, establishing the feast of All Martyrs' Day on May 13, 609 AD.
The 1907 Catholic Encyclopedia traces the development of the feast, which was "instituted to honor all the saints, known and unknown, and, according to Urban IV, to supply any deficiencies in the faithful's celebration of saints' feasts during the year."
The association of the Feast of All Saints with the Pantheon in Rome makes a lot of sense. The Pantheon was a building dedicated to all gods and goddesses, known and unknown. The goal of sacrifice in the Pantheon was to honor all ("pan-") gods ("theoi"). Christians believe that there is only one God; veneration of all the saints is intended to honor GOD's accomplishments in the lives of His children.
|373||St. Ephrem the Syrian mentioned a common feast of all martyrs.|
|397||St. Basil of Caesarea invited nearby bishops to join in a common feast honoring the martyrs.|
|407||St. John Chrysostom mentioned a common feast of all martyrs.|
|411||"Commemoratio Confessorum" for Friday after Easter in the Chaldean calendar.|
|609||Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon in Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs on 13 May.|
|731-741||Gregory III consecrated a chapel in the Basilica of St. Peter to all the saints and fixed the anniversary for 1 November.|
|827-844||Gregory IV extended the celebration of All Saints on 1 November to the entire Church.|
I do not know of any documentary evidence for the frequently-repeated claim that the Church moved the date to November 1 in order to compete with pagan traditions. The origins of the feast long predate the spread of Christianity to Celtic territory. The assignment of the feast to November 1, followed by All Souls Day on November 2, seems to have taken place in Rome, not in Ireland.
Development of All Souls Day
- The practice of going door-to-door, begging for treats dates back to the Middle Ages in the British Isles. It began as a practice called “souling.” On all Saints’ Day, pious families would bake small, round cakes, usually made with ginger or nutmeg and topped with a cross.
- These “soul cakes” were given out to “soulers” – usually children and the poor – who went from house to house to get them. For each soul cake they received, the soulers would promise to pray for a soul in purgatory. Thus, the origin of trick-or-treating revolved around praying for the souls of the dead.
- Eventually, the practice of souling and of praying for the souls of deceased family members and friends led to the establishment of a brand new feast day on the Church calendar: “All Souls’ Day” on November 2. This became the day set apart to remember and pray for the souls of all the faithful departed.
Sanctifying the Evening
- Ask your children to dress as apostles, saints, or martyrs from the New Testament or any age in Church History. The Old Testament is filled with men and women who could be honored: the patriarchs and their wives, prophets, kings, queens, judges, fathers, and mothers. Your children could also dress as angels, named or unnamed.
- Give your children something to give to the houses they visit--a little holy card, a promise of prayer, maybe a note about the original idea of honoring God's marvelous deeds in the lives of the saints.
- Pray with your children before taking them around the neighborhood and pray with them again before they start eating the candy.
- Visit a graveyard with your children. Talk about death. Pray for the deceased--with gratitude for all that was good in their lives and with compassion for what may need the cleansing fires of Purgatory.
- Have a bonfire.
- Throw a neighborhood party.
- Have a pumpkin-carving contest.