Embracing Faith Through Community: Halloween Roots

By Katie Beckmann, Communications Manager


This week’s “Embracing Faith” article will focus on Embracing Faith through Community.

On Thursday, children and adults throughout the world will wear their favorite costumes, trick-or-treat, as well as participate in holiday festivities to celebrate Halloween, also known as All Hallows’ Eve.


While many of us will go to haunted houses, eat sweets, and watch scary movies, it is important to remember that Halloween, the vigil of All Saints Day, November 1st, has religious roots.


The word “Halloween,” which dates back to the 18th century, is a Scottish shortening of the phrase “Allhallow-even,” which means “All-Holy Evening.” (1)


Even the concept of trick-or-treating has a religious background.


A tradition for many European cultures is “souling” and baking “soul cakes” in honor of the “faithful departed.” After baking these cakes on Halloween, children would go door-to-door with these cakes to exchange them for prayers to their deceased loved ones. (1)


Another popular Halloween tradition today is dressing up in costumes. European cultures believed that the tradition of wearing costumes while “souling” represented the souls in purgatory who are seeking prayers during All Souls Day. (1)


The day after Halloween is All Saints Day. The feast of “All Saints” was established by Pope Gregory III and then eventually made into a Catholic Holy Day of Obligation by Pope Gregory IV. (1)


Following All Saints Day is All Souls Day, a day dedicated to praying for souls in purgatory, where Catholics pray for their loved ones who are deceased. (1)


Regardless of how you choose to celebrate Halloween, it is important to focus on the religious roots of this day, as well as the two following days, All Saints Day and All Souls Day.

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