In the U.S. on October 31st we celebrate Halloween as a time for children (and some adults) to go door to door begging for candy. With a cheery “Trick or Treat” the little beggars wait with their bags and buckets outstretched to receive their treat. Most households oblige. Some communities have moved “Halloween” to the Sunday afternoon before October 31st to avoid a dark night. Others have opted for “Trunk or Treat” which corrals families in a safe place such as a school or church parking lot. All of these activities are fun and none of them have much to do with the origin of Halloween or more accurately “All Hallows Eve”. All Hallows’ Eve is the day before the very important feast of All Saints Day in Western Christian traditions.
In early Christian tradition the night before All Saints was a time to honor the saints that have passed before us and folks often dressed as their patron saints and visited neighbors. I suppose this may have been the beginnings of today’s modern celebration of Halloween. How we went from honoring our dearly departed, and the saints to slogging around as zombies, vampires, witches, princesses, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and all other manner of characters, I have no idea. Still I think Halloween is harmless fun and most people handle it responsibly. Kids running around the neighborhood asking for candy is hardly a sign of a predilection to the occult. Some people seem to think that allowing children to “Trick or Treat” is tempting the devil. I say relax – no little girl or boy dressed as princess or a ninja is sacrificing animals at an altar. No one has traded their soul for a Snickers bar.
I admire the tradition of my friends in Mexico. They celebrate November 1st and 2nd as “Dias de Muertos” or days of the dead. It’s a time to remember and honor those saints in our own lives. Families gather in cemeteries and bring the favorite foods of their loved ones. Sometimes the food, flowers, and small gifts are left at the grave and at other times the friends and families will share the meal of favorite foods in honor the deceased.
I love the idea that someday when I’m gone from this world my children and grandchildren might gather at my grave and share a favorite food or drink, tell a joke, sing a favorite song and pray for my soul. Maybe it’s as superstitious and as silly as our modern Halloween traditions but I find comfort in knowing that I would not be forgotten. And if they leave some candy, I hope it’s chocolate.