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Wait, today is a holiday called “Hallowmas?” What does it mean?

hallowmas, candles

Halloween is actually just the beginning of a string of otherworldly holidays. The tricks, treats and customs of Halloween, now mostly secular, are based in part on an ancient Christian festival that spans November 1st and 2nd.

November 1 is All Saints’ Day, when all saints — known and unknown — are recognized.

(The “een” in “Halloween” ties into these lesser-known occasions. Find out what “Halloween” actually is short for, here.)

The Roman Catholic Church’s official name for All Saints Day is Solemnity of All Saints’ Day, but it is also called Hallows or Hallowmas. (Hallowmas is shortened from Hallow’s mass.) In the Western Christian world, All Saints’ Day is celebrated on November 1. The word hallows is used in multiple ways. It can refer to saints and the relics of saints. It can also refer to the shrines in which the relics are kept.

The day after All Saints’ Day, November 2, is All Souls’ Day. This holiday honors the faithful who have died but have not yet reached heaven. In Mexico and the United States, this occasion is better known as Dia de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.

20 Comments

  1. Chuck -  October 25, 2013 - 9:46 am

    Halloween or whatever you want to call it, is absolutely against The Bible (KJV). Every thing associated with Halloween is an abomination unto the LORD. Glorifying death, witchcraft, spirits, demons, devils, fear outside of the LORD and oh so much more. I urge all people to turn away from this garbage and not invite evil like this into your life. Also, Saints Day is Catholic not Christian. Saints are all believers who are sanctified by the blood of The LORD Jesus Christ not something ordained by the Catholic church.

    Reply
    • You -  April 13, 2015 - 10:52 am

      I also urge all readers of the above comment by Chuck to not be inspired to try to push your religion onto others. You’re NEVER going to convert anyone like that- you’re just going to come across as a complete fool. Trust me.

      Reply
  2. Ember -  November 5, 2010 - 3:06 pm

    RE: Valerie’s remarks…

    “It’s time we stopped believing that the pagans were responsible for every single thing we have today and start looking at historical facts and records.”

    The problem with that statement is that the *victors* wrote the histories, and those victors had an agenda. At first these were Pagan Romans, such as Julius Caesar, who made their vanquished enemies look as bad as possible to increase the PR value of their own success back home. Later, the Christian agenda was inculcating the view that Christianity was the only “true” religion, that all others were the result of ignorant or evil people being seduced by the Christian devil and his minions. Obviously, whether the histories were factual or not is highly debatable. Some aspects have been shown to be accurate, but many others have been shown not to be accurate, as determined by archeological evidence.

    There are no records for much of Pagan Europe, as many Pagan peoples had no written language. The traditions, customs, laws, religious beliefs, etc, of their cultures were passed on orally. However, the special members of society who spent years, sometimes decades (as in the case of the Druids) memorizing an entire cultural heritage were targeted for destruction, first by Pagan Romans seeking political hegemony and later by Christian Romans seeking religious hegemony.

    Valerie: “It is a fact that Halloween is a Catholic holiday, end of story. It just happens to be near the time of when Samhain was celebrated.”

    No, not “end of story.” It doesn’t “just happen” to be near Samhain: it is on that date by decree of the Catholic Church specifically as a means to stamp out its Pagan heritage. Mischief is correct: All Saints’ Day was originally celebrated in spring, though it was in mid-May, not April. That time was chosen specifically to supplant the Roman Pagan celebration of Lemuria, when the spirits of the dead returned to walk the earth. As Christianity spread outward from Rome, the more widespread Pagan tradition of holy days of the dead occurring in the fall became more of a threat to the Church’s agenda than had Lemuria. *For this reason* All Saints’ Day was moved to November 1st. Written records between Popes and their bishops throughout Europe attest to this practice, which included the entire Pagan calendar of holidays, not just Samhain.

    The November 1st date was chosen because October 31st was the most common date for Pagan end-of-year celebrations, including Samhain. The entire point was to supercede existing Pagan celebrations on this date. Celtic tradition (not sure about Germanic) taught that a “day” began at sundown and lasted until the following sundown (as is the custom in Jewish tradition). This is why November 1st was used rather than October 31st; much of the Pagan “day” would be left by the time the Roman calendar 31st had ended.

    Samhain is much more than a harvest festival, though that was a part of the overall concept. Part of the harvest was the “death” of the crops, which would contribute to the ongoing life of the people, especially through the “dead” of winter. Autumn was also the time when the herds were thinned, that is animals were slaughtered and their meat preserved for winter, as there was not enough grain to keep them all alive until spring. This intermingling of death and life, of death leading to rebirth and new life, was at the center of the Samhain celebration. Interestingly, this same intermingling is mirrored in the Christian celebrations of Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Actually, the dying god who is reborn is a *very* common theme in ancient *pre-Christian* religions, not just with the Celts and not just in Europe. It was also very common in the area where Christianity was created.

    Along with the death of the crops, death in general was acknowledged at Samhain. Those who had died in the previous year were honored, just as in the *later* Christian Feast of All Souls, although the Pagans were doing this hundreds, if not thousands, of years earlier. The Celtic Pagan view was that the earthly world of the living and the spirit world of the dead – and other beings, both good and bad – were closer to one another than humans could usually detect. Passing between those worlds was possible, though not usually desirable. Once there, coming back here while you were still alive could cause any number of problems. However, the night marking the end of the growing season and the beginning of the winter, when life seemed to disappear from the face of the earth, was special. On that night – Samhain – the two worlds were at their closest. It was when the dead came to visit their relatives, the gods might be afoot more than usual, and less desirable non-humans might come to cause mischief – or worse. Offerings for those being honored (dead loved ones and the gods)were left on the doorstep, while candle-lit, scarily carved turnips were put out to fool evil spirits into believing the house had already been claimed by another of their kind so they would move on. THAT’S where jack-o-lanterns and trick-or-treating originated. The name “jack-o-lantern” came later, as did pumpkins which were introduced from the New World and were much easier to carve than turnips.

    As far as dates, the end of harvest might alter somewhat due to weather in any given year, but the Celts also derived the dates and their associated events from solar (and sometimes lunar) hallmarks. October 31st falls very near six weeks after the autumnal equinox and six weeks prior to the winter solstice, remembering that these dates move relative to our calendar by a few days depending on the year and also shift a bit more over centuries.

    Another example of celestial date-setting is still used… by Christians. The date for Easter, the last great movable feast day in the Christian calendar, is set on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. This is in line with how the dates for Passover are derived, given Jesus was in Jerusalem to celebrate that holiday when he was arrested. These days, all this mention of full moons and solar events gives some conservative Christians the heeby-jeebies. Not sure why… the Christian god supposedly created both as well as how they interact with the earth.

    BTW, the winter solstice was known as the birthday of Mithra/Mithras, who was one of the most popular deities in the Mediterranean in the few centuries prior to and after the establishment of the Common Era (otherwise known as BC/AD). There is no mention of a birth date for Jesus in the New Testament, although the allusion to shepherds in the fields suggests it was *not* in the winter, which is cold even in the Middle East. When the popularity of Mithraism began to challenge the popularity of Christianity – especially among the Roman military – the early Church fathers decided a birthday celebration for Jesus was in order. They chose Mithra’s birthday (the solstice fell on or around the 25th in that era) because much of Mithra’s mythology matched that of Jesus. Mithra, too, died and was reborn. His followers could also expect the same rebirth that Christians might after death. His followers were also baptized, though Mithraic baptism was in the blood of a bull slain to commemorate Mithra’s death. The sacrifice and the blood from it are right in line with the bloody sacrificial death of Jesus, as the wine used in communion reminds the Christian faithful.

    So… yes Valerie, *many* Christian holidays and customs exist due to outright theft by the Church proper in an effort to claim as their own that which was already popular with the people. This was done so that those people would eventually come to believe, as you do, that said holidays and customs were originally Christian. That said, many other beloved ancient practices and images were adapted to Christian use by the people, such as the use of holly and mistletoe, the Yule log, and the “Christmas” tree. Those things started to be viewed relative to how they could represent Christian beliefs. That’s fine by me – Pagans don’t own those things and it’s nice to see that things holy to me are also important to others. But claiming that Christians thought of using them first, or that the Christian view of why they’re important is the *only* reason they’re important, is just plain wrong.

    Reply
  3. HALLOWMAS | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  November 3, 2010 - 10:42 pm

    [...] Saints and sinners and suicide bombers — Voters and Floaters — sounds like a Straight Flush. — History keeps repeating with different costumes and makeup — Religiously seeking something else to break up — Stardust Memories a collection of neuroses — when STARDUST from Old King Cole the melody lingers on — Another holiday for saints and singers is really the trick of treat. with no Hallowmas engaging more than creativity at play. –>>Rupert L.T.Rhyme [...]

    Reply
  4. Robert -  November 1, 2010 - 10:31 pm

    @ David:

    Happy Hallowmas is no weirder or more awkward than Happy Christmas, Happy Candlemas (the Feast of the Presentation in the Temple), Happy Michaelmas (St Michael’s Day), Happy Bartlemas (St Bartholomew’s Day), Happy Andermas (St Andrew’s Day, in Scotland) or Happy Childermas (the Feast of the Holy Innocents)

    @ all the pagans who think paganism is the origin of everything Christian:

    Not quite. To say that feasts such as Christmas and Easter are ‘really just pagan’ is nonsense as pagans didn’t/don’t celebrate Christ’s birth or resurrection. What the Church did was supplant pagan festivals with Christian ones. That’s why few people celebrate the Saturnalia now, whereas millions celebrate Christmas.

    Reply
  5. mischief -  November 1, 2010 - 9:52 pm

    Actually, it was at one time claimed that it was derived from the Irish Samhain.

    The problem there is that the Irish celebrated All Saints’ in April, not November, so that’s impossible.

    Reply
  6. Valerie -  November 1, 2010 - 8:51 pm

    It seems that a number of people who commented refuse to believe the facts in the article. Samhain is NOT Halloween – Halloween or All Hallows Eve, really IS a Catholic holiday. Samhain is a pagan harvest festival; Halloween is not. We can thank the Irish Catholics for bringing Halloween to America, and some Halloween customs – costumes, parties, games, possibly trick-or-treating, and jack-o-lanterns, are based on Catholic Halloween festivities from Europe. The legend of the jack-o-lantern is an interesting tale about a bad man named Jack who tricked the devil and has to wander the Earth for all eternity as punishment using a hollowed pumpkin with a glowing coal inside as his lantern…thus “Jack of the Lantern”.

    It’s time we stopped believing that the pagans were responsible for every single thing we have today and start looking at historical facts and records. This article is correct. It is a fact that Halloween is a Catholic holiday, end of story. It just happens to be near the time of when Samhain was celebrated.

    Reply
  7. Nazar Klishta -  November 1, 2010 - 8:19 pm

    I never knew. now I know it!

    Reply
  8. sprode -  November 1, 2010 - 7:57 pm

    Isn’t everything in Christianity somehow stolen from the pagans?

    I love evil almost as much as I hate everyone else.

    Reply
  9. David -  November 1, 2010 - 7:24 pm

    Cool! Happy Hallowmas…. but… that is weird… awkward…

    Reply
  10. Cyberquill -  November 1, 2010 - 6:15 pm

    Dia de Los Muertos. Very fitting, for it looks like this year’s All Souls’ Day will be the Day of the Dead for Democrats in Congress.

    Reply
  11. audience of black soul songs -  November 1, 2010 - 3:37 pm

    Look at the bright side of the dead nowadays, you get to see otherworldly perspectives.

    Claude Henri de Rouvroy Saint-Simon talks about the lemonade world history or something, I don’t remember well. He also talks about wierd perception of marriage. There are only two things I remember regarding his writing.
    Peculiar saint.

    over and out.

    Reply
  12. person -  November 1, 2010 - 2:59 pm

    “The tricks, treats and customs of Halloween, now mostly secular, are based in an ancient Christian festival that spans November 1st and 2nd.”
    Actually, the holiday is based in the traditions of the Pagan Celts of the British Isles, and probably, therefore, the “barbarians” of Northern Europe where they originated.

    Reply
  13. Gnosis -  November 1, 2010 - 2:35 pm

    CORRECTION: The tricks, treats and customs of Halloween, now mostly secular, are based in an ancient Pagan festival which the Christians later adapted.

    Reply
  14. Michael Dadona -  November 1, 2010 - 2:11 pm

    First and be the foremost, Happy Hallowmas.

    Thank you so much for providing this article, I learn new thing about ” All Souls’ Day”. Kindly write another helpful article explaining in-depth for why? Why “This holiday honors the faithful who have died but have not yet reached heaven.”

    There are two significant relevant factors between “honors” and “but have not yet reached heaven”. The word “but” used, for sure, contains lots of interesting stories about it. I am keenly waiting for the “but” stories.

    Reply
  15. mihcael maltzer -  November 1, 2010 - 12:35 pm

    Trick or treat, speaking against the assertions of this article, has no religious or faith-based roots at all. It was born of hoodlum chaos and destruction during the industrializing areas of 19th century America…as an attempt to bribe the non-directed violence of unchanneled youth. It successfully gave a safe and non-destructive outlet to the youth….in short, it was a bribe, and it worked.

    Halloween was not born from Christian holidays, but of the pre-Christian ones…known as Samhain in Ireland. The Mexican Day of the Dead is NOT honoring “the faithful”…it honors ALL of the dead and departed loved ones- it is a time when a person or family can come together and remember the life of that loved one.

    You make it out to seem that every single holiday is Christian…and that even the secular ones of today were a Christian holiday for the faithful in days gone by. This is NOT the case!

    STOP!

    Reply
  16. Clare -  November 1, 2010 - 11:34 am

    Huh. Whaddya know? I’d heard of All Saint’s Day, but assumed it was the same holiday as Halloween. Now I know better.

    Reply
  17. JD Nichol -  November 1, 2010 - 11:33 am

    It’s always interesting to learn something new about the history of a word and a holiday in one post. Have a Hallowed day!

    Reply
  18. Amanda Devine -  November 1, 2010 - 11:23 am

    I would like to know how, if Halloween/Hallowmas etc. are all Christian/Catholic celebrations, why it is usually the Christians and Catholics who refuse to celebrate such an “evil” tradition.

    Reply

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