Nearly everyone knows the secular holiday of Halloween.
But not everybody knows it derives from a holy day, All Saints' Day on Nov. 1, which is followed by All Souls' day on Nov. 2.
The root word of Halloween - ''hallow'' - means ''holy.'' The suffix "een" is an abbreviation of "evening." It refers to the Eve of All Hallows, the night before the Christian holy day that honors saintly people of the past. "All Saints is a celebration of the communion of saints, those people we believe are in heaven, through good works and God's grace," said the Rev. Richard Donohoe, vicar of Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama.
More than a thousand years ago in Ireland and Britain, a common custom of Christians was to come together on the eve of the feast of All Hallows Day to ask for God's blessing and protection from evil in the world. Often, they would dress in costumes of saints or evil spirits and act out the battle between good and evil around bonfires. That's the source of the modern observance of Halloween.
All Souls' Day is a day to pray for all souls.
Among Catholics, prayers are offered for those in purgatory, waiting to get into heaven. On All Souls' Day, Catholic churches have a Book of the Dead, in which parishioners have an opportunity to write the names of relatives to be remembered. "That's placed near the altar," Donohoe said. "That's done all through November. It's an All Souls' tradition."
The ''Dia de los Muertos,'' or ''day of the dead,'' in Latin countries
keeps alive some of the tradition of honoring souls of the dead.
"All Hallows was considered a time when evil could manifest itself,"
Donohoe said. "We do believe in the visible and the invisible.
There is good and there is evil. There is invisible evil and invisible good.
It's an acknowledgement of that existence."
So light up a candle and say prayers today
for all your loved ones
who are now resting in peace waiting for the Risen Lord.
May your heart be light remembering them.
As always, thank you for visiting.
Hugs and prayers for you and yours,
today and always.