One of the fringe benefits of going to a catholic school was November 1: All Saints Day. That day was a holy day of obligation meant that there was no school on that day.
We could stay out later counting and enjoy our booty from our night of sanctioned extortion, otherwise known as trick-or-treat. It was a great holiday and is still one of my favorites. It has become for me the national gay (meaning all in the LGBTQ family) holiday.
Over the years I have heard many explanations for this holiday. In catholic schools we were taught that the evening before All Saints Day was a time to pray for all the dead, for the release of their souls from Purgatory so that they could be honored the next day. I heard that in other cultures that was the night when the spirits of the dead who were trapped in this world would somehow be released and walk the earth that night. Costumes and treats soon entered into the traditional observance for this night. As catholic school children we were encouraged to dress up as our favorite saint (yeah, right), others assumed costumes to either scare the away the dead spirits or blend in with them so that you wouldn’t be attacked by them. Treats were given to appease these spirits to either wish them well on their way or to bribe them not to do harm to you or your property.
In our modern celebration of Halloween few think of it as a time to remember, honor, and pray for the dead. It is a time to celebrate life by mocking death with ghouls, zombies and monsters. It is a time to celebrate the magic of life as we don costumes of fairies, royalty and even clergy. It is a celebration of fantasy and imagination. Take a walk on Wilton Drive on Halloween and see the creativity of the LGBTQ community. Feel the energy and the enthusiasm for life. Let your inner child come out and play. Celebrate the spirit, celebrate life!
Halloween is also a reflection of our everyday lives, for in truth we are spiritual beings. For the span of our life we wear the costume of being human, but our true nature is spiritual. In this world we know that there are demons and saints, things that scare us and things that bring joy and laughter. On Halloween we poke fun at death, because we know that death has been defeated. We celebrate life knowing that the spirit springs eternally.
On Halloween, the spirits do indeed walk the earth. Spirits of hope and love. We are those spirits. While we see all of the fabulous costumes, be aware of the ones you can’t see; the angels and the saints that constantly surround us. Those spirits of God’s love that call us to trust and celebrate that even in the scary, love wins. So celebrate the spirit of Halloween that reminds us that we are all saints.
Fr. Jamie is the pastor of Holy Angels National Catholic Church in Wilton Manors, an independent catholic community welcoming all of God’s saints in a spirit of love without judgement.