Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Traditions, traditions... and Halloween.

As David and I get ready to start our family, a question that comes up often is: What kind of traditions do we want to establish now at the early stages of our fledgling family?

A particularly easy way to come up with new traditions (or incorporate old ones) is right around the time of the holiday season.

Which brings us to the first of these: Halloween or as tradition would have it "All Hallow's Eve".
I have a fascination for discovering the roots of traditions, especially when they seem to be unrecognizable due to commercialization and the loss of their original meaning.

Here are a few interesting tidbits on the traditions of Halloween and surrounding holidays:

31 October and 1 and 2 November were once referred to as "Hallowtide" or the "Days of the Dead" because on these days we pray for or remember those who've left this world.

So these days of remembrance looked something like this:

Oct. 31st- Hallow's eve unofficially recalls the souls of the damned and the reality of Hell and how to avoid it. Halloween was part of Irish popular piety to remember those who are neither in Purgatory nor Heaven. Hence all the devil, goblins and references to Hell. Originally these references were meant to teach others of the horrors of Hell.

Nov. 1st- All Saints- set aside officially to honor the great saints of the past, including those whose names are unknown and aren't canonized. Perhaps you knew a saint in your lifetime? The first celebrations of All Saints dates back all the way to the 300's! In the 870's Pope Gregory III made it more of an official day of remembrance. 

Nov. 2nd-All Souls- set aside to pray for those suffering in Purgatory, especially our loved ones. All Souls dates back to the early 1000's and then made official by Pope Sylvester II. In many countries, to this day, people visit their deceased loved ones in cemeteries on this day.

Side note: the best way to understanding Purgatory is through this simple analogy: Imagine you are the parent of a 7-year old child who steals a candy bar from the local grocery. The child is repentant, in tears, sobbing his apologies. You, being the good parent (as God, our Father is!) forgive that child and love him and show him your mercy. But being a good parent means that you are also just and will expect that child to pay back the store. Purgatory is God's way of forgiving us, loving us, showing us His mercy and justice -- and making us "pay back the store."

The Jack-O-Lantern and Trick-or-Treating?
The tradition of the Jack-O-Lantern is also Irish and were originally carved turnips. You can read more about this legend by clicking here.

And finally how could one forget the whole idea behind "Trick-or-treating"! Trick-or-treating can be tied to the tradition of English Catholics who went begging from door-to-door. Children would go about begging their neighbors for a "Soul Cake," for which they would say a prayer for those neighbors' dead. Instead of knocking on a door and saying "Trick-or-treat" they would say either:

"A Soul Cake, a Soul Cake,
have mercy on all Christian souls for a soul cake!"


"Soul, soul, an apple or two,
If you haven't an apple, a pear will do,
One for Peter, two for Paul,
Three for the Man Who made us all."

Soul Cakes are a type of shortbread biscuit but it is said that a clever medieval woman wanted to make these cakes designed to remind every one of eternity so she cut a hole in the middle of round cakes before frying them, thereby inventing donuts!  Who knew! For the recipe, click here.

Halloween in Italy has only taken off in the last 5-10 years. It is more of an adult holiday in that adults get together at local restaurants or pubs and dress up. You do see many storefronts that take advantage of this pseudo holiday to decorate. As for children and trick-or-treating, in the cities it's a bit difficult with closed in apartment buildings. Some parents get together and plan for trick-or-treating times. Out in the suburbs it is also something that is more or less planned; unlike in the States where you'd better have candy to hand out, or else... All Saints day is a National holiday, as David has off tomorrow. All Souls day is reserved for visiting deceased relatives at the local cemeteries.

As per David and I, we will be staying indoors and making ourselves some Soul Cakes. We will also take advantage of this four day weekend to begin our own tradition of remembering all those who have set the path before us for the road to Holiness on All Saints as well as remembering all those, particularly in our families, who have passed on and may still need our prayers. We will be sure to include your prayers in ours.

Have a happy and safe Halloween (All Hallow's Eve) and don't forget to pray for your long lost loved ones and maybe visit them at the cemetery.

Hope to hear from you,
~Ale, David and piccolino

Above information taken from

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