DAILY CATHOLIC Friday through Tuesday: Celebrating the "Communion of Saints" Special Issue October 29-November 2, 1999 vol. 10, no. 207
NEWS & VIEWS
Christian Celebration Lost in Consumerism
ROME, OCT 28 (ZENIT).- As October 31 approaches, stores are filled with masks, monsters' costumes, witches gear and pumpkins with terrifying expressions. Halloween is just around the corner and every year it sweeps more countries of the globalized and consumerist world into its net.
Generally speaking, Halloween is known for its pagan beginnings, which in the course of history have mixed with Christian elements.
The pagan roots of the celebration are attributed to the Celtic celebration of "Samhain," the cult of the dead. It was an established Druid tradition in the British Isles prior to the Romans invasion in 46 A.D. Although little is known about these celebrations, it seems that the Samhain festivities were observed between November 5-7 (midway between the summer equinox and the winter solstice) with a one-week series of events, ending with the feast of "the dead," which marked the beginning of the new Celtic year. During this feast, the Druids communicated with their ancestors hoping to be guided in this life toward immortality.
Beginning in the 4th century, the Syrian Church dedicated a day to "All Martyrs." Three centuries later, Pope Boniface IV (615) transformed a Roman temple dedicated to all gods (The Pantheon in Rome) into a Christian temple to "All Saints" -- all those who preceded us in the faith. Initially, All Saints Day was kept on May 13. It was changed by Pope Gregory III (741) to November 1, the day of the "Dedication" of the Chapel of All Saints in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Later, in the year 840, Pope Gregory IV ordered the feast of "All Saints" to be celebrated universally. As a major feast, its "vigil" was kept on October 31. This vigil was called "All Hallow's Eve" from where we get the name "Halloween."
As early as the year 998, St. Odilon, abbot of the Monastery of Cluny in southern France, added the celebration of November 2, as a day to pray for the faithful dead. Hence the Day of the Dead, observed first in France and later throughout Europe.
Obviously, Halloween today has little to do with its beginnings. Throughout history elements have been added like costumes (14th and 15th centuries) during the celebration of "All Saints" Day in France. In addition, during this period Europe was stricken by the "Black Death," which inspired great fear of death. Masses were multiplied for the "Faithful Dead," and many satirical representations appeared to remind people of their mortality.
These representations were known as the "Dance of Death." In a burlesque
spirit, on the eve of the commemoration of the "Faithful Dead," the French
adorned the walls of cemeteries with pictures of the devil leading a chain
of people: Popes, kings, ladies, knights, monks, peasants, lepers, etc.
(death respects no one) to their grave. These representations were inspired
in plays with people dressed up as famous personalities in different stages
of life, including death, which visits all.
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NEWS & VIEWS