The Feast of Hallowmas

You can tell the strange disconnect between the holidays of October 31 and November 1 by the fact that the first is popularly called Halloween, and the second All Saints’ Day. Hallowmas and All Hallows’ Day are among the other names for the church feast of November 1, and from these names, of course, Halloween is derived. Yet the holidays have parted ways, and so have their names.

The feast of Hallowmas was founded in honor of all the saints. The holiday’s antecedent was a day of commemoration for the martyrs, later broadened to honor all the saints in Heaven. Saints, as a religious term, has two meanings—first, that of dead Christians canonized by the Church, and sometimes the object of prayer or worship; second, that of all Christians, without qualification. I must note that the Bible uses saints in this second sense.

Because it was established under the Catholic Church, All Saints’ Day was probably intended to celebrate saints in the first, qualified definition. Since the Protestant Reformation, some churches have broadened the holiday to commemorate all Christians who have died—who would together be called, in an old phrase, the Church Triumphant. In its broadest sense, Hallowmas is a holiday in which the Church Militant (in the world) honors the Church Triumphant (in Heaven). The only vestige of Hallowmas in Halloween, as it is currently celebrated, is the thought of death.

Some Christians, if belonging to traditions that incorporate All Saints’ Day, remember the recently departed on November 1. Following on that thought, I am going to conclude with a brief verse written by Alfred Tennyson; the friend mentioned is dead, and Tennyson is grieving for him.

 

CXXVI

of In Memoriam A. H.H.

Love is and was my Lord and King,
      And in his presence I attend
      To hear the tidings of my friend,
Which every hour his couriers bring.

Love is and was my King and Lord,
      And will be, tho’ as yet I keep
      Within his court on earth, and sleep
Encompass’d by his faithful guard,

And hear at times a sentinel
      Who moves about from place to place,
      And whispers to the worlds of space,
In the deep night, that all is well.