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What is Halloween?

Halloween is celebrated each year on October 31.

 

The tradition originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced 'sow-in'), when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts.

 

In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III made the day after Samhain (November 1st), a time to honour all saints. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a day of activities like trick-or-treating, carving jack-o-lanterns, festive gatherings, wearing costumes and eating treats.

 

The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago, mostly in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their NEW YEAR on November 1. This day marked the end of summer, the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter. Celts believed that on the night before the NEW YEAR, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.

All Saints Day

In 609 A.D., Pope Boniface IV created the Catholic Feast of All Martyrs Day and later Pope Gregory III, would include all saints as well and move the observance from May 13 to November 1.

Centuries later, in 1000 A.D., the church made November 2 All Souls’ Day, a day to honor the dead. 

All Souls’ Day was celebrated similarly to Samhain, with big bonfires, parades and dressing up in costumes as saints, angels and devils. The All Saints’ Day celebration was also called All-hallows or All-hallowmas (from Middle English Alholowmesse meaning All Saints’ Day) and the night before it, the traditional night of Samhain in the Celtic religion, began to be called All-Hallows Eve and, eventually, Halloween.

Every year on November 1, many Roman Catholics and other Christians around the world observe All Saints Day, which honors all saints of the church that have attained heaven. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, All Saints Day is observed on the first Sunday after Pentecost.

All Souls Day

All Souls Day, on November 2, is a holy day set aside for honouring the dead. 

As Catholics we believe the soul of a person who dies can go to one of three places. The first is heaven, where a person who dies in a state of perfect grace and communion with God goes. The second is hell, where those who die in a state of mortal sin are naturally condemned by their choice. The intermediate option is purgatory, which is thought to be where most people, free of mortal sin, but still in a state of lesser (venial) sin, must go.

Purgatory is necessary so that souls can be cleansed and perfected before they enter into heaven. There is scriptural basis for this belief. The primary reference is in 2 Maccabees, 12:26 and 12:32. "Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out... Thus made atonement for the dead that they might be free from sin."

In Mexico, All Souls’ Day (Los Fieles Difuntos), on November 2, and All Saints’ Day (Día de Todos los Santos), on November 1, are bigger than Halloween. It's also called the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos). Mexico’s Day of the Dead is not a day to be scared – it is a festive occasion with parties, dancing, singing, and even fireworks!

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