Well, the 2nd most lucrative holiday in America has come and gone. Marketers are happy. Teachers are happy. Parents are happy. Dentists are happy. For our part, Terri and I went down to the Outlet Mall to watch the children in their costumes trick or treat. We anticipated little activity in the neighborhood where we are renting a home. We were right and we enjoyed watching parents and children at the mall. Wow, there are some cute children in Lincoln City as well as being polite and well behaved. We were happy.
During the week leading up to Halloween I spent a little bit of time driving around to see how “into it” families and businesses were by doing decorations for the day. There were some who went all out but for the most part decorations were modest. What did catch my attention was the announcement board in front of the 7th Day Adventist Church. It read:
Better than Halloween…November 1
Initially this caught me off-guard. I thought, “What?” “Thanksgiving? “Christmas?” “What might they be pointing to?” Then it hit me.
November 1….All Saints Day!
All Saints Day is what Halloween is referring to. The name Halloween as an abbreviation of Hallow’s E’en or the evening before All Hallows Day, All-Saints Day. Here is how it got started.
Christians have been honoring saints and martyrs since at least the second century AD. The martyrdom of Polycarp probably written near the middle of the second century, attests to this reality:
Accordingly, we afterwards took up his bones, more precious than the most exquisite jewels, and more pure than gold, and deposited them in a fitting place, so that when being gathered together, as opportunity is allowed us, with joy and rejoicing, the Lord shall grant us to celebrate the anniversary of his martyrdom, both in memory of those who have already finished their course, and for the exercising and preparation of those yet to walk in their steps (18).
Initially the calendars of saints and martyrs varied by location, with churches honoring local saints. However, gradually feast days became more universal. The first reference to a general feast celebrating all saints occurs in St Ephrem the Syrian (d. AD 373). St. John Chrysostom (d. AD 407) assigned a day to the feast, the first Sunday after Pentecost, where in the Eastern Churches the feast is celebrated to this day. In the West, this date was probably originally used, and then the feast was moved to May 13th. The current observance (November 1) probably originates from the time of Pope Gregory III (d. AD 741), and was likely first observed on November 1st in Germany. www.ChurchYear.Net
I am always interested in how culture and religion shape each other. Christmas attempted to make sacred the secular and pagan Samhain holiday in ancient Rome. Halloween has won the struggle between the secular and sacred by becoming the dominant celebration over All-Saints Day.
As Christians we are supposed to stand out differently from our secular culture. November 1 should be better than Halloween as we remember and celebrate those people of faith who have gone before us. This week, in retrospect, take time and reflect upon those who helped build your faith foundation. For me they will be: Dad, Bill, John, Bill-2, Lloyd, Frank, Ed, and a whole host of others. These are my “saints” for whom I give thanks.