Friday, November 18, 2016

Halloween: Not Really

In 21st century America, the celebration of Halloween has become a large commercial industry. Parties, costumes, and candy provide sales for many businesses.

The roots of the celebration, however, are far removed from its modern incarnation.

A dual holiday, All Saints Day is customarily on November 1st, and is followed by All Souls Day on November 2nd. The pairing, over a thousand years old, reveals a deep principle within Western Civilization.

On the one hand, All Saints Day is an acknowledgement of those who have died. The 'Saints' in 'All Saints Day' doesn't have the narrow meaning of the word, but rather the broad meaning: it refers not merely to the exceptional few who've been canonized by the institutional church, but rather casts a broad net.

All Souls Day, by contrast, celebrates those who've not yet arrived in the afterlife.

The original meanings of both days are often lost to modern observants, even those who would celebrate them most piously.

Taken together, they manifest a balance: this life and the next life.

They also issue a warning: don't forget. Don't forget this life and become obsessed with the life to come. Don't forget the future eternal life and think only of the present life.

By celebrating, back to back, those who've gone on to the next life and those who've not yet arrived there, the Judeo-Christian tradition embodies a moderate view of this world and the next world.

The dual celebrations seem to date back to 609 A.D., but were originally observed in the springtime. They were moved to the autumn in the eighth century.