Halloween and All Saints’ Day

So, I realize that this is old news. It takes me forever to write about things. When I’m writing about dinner parties this doesn’t matter; when I’m writing about national holidays it’s a little more obvious. I fear how uninteresting my Halloween and All Saints’ stories might be as I sip coffee out of an absurd Starbucks Christmas cup in mid November; but, here you have them anyway.

I love Halloween. I always have. Before I became particularly conscientious of the Church Year it was in hard competition with Christmas for my favorite holiday. Growing up it seemed like a spectacular enthusiasm and assumed generosity that everyone bought into for no reason at all. What should we all do on the last day of October? Buy boatloads of candy for the neighborhood kids and dress up like a bunch of idiots, obviously. I was never scared; I was just sort of in awe of the joint effort.

I grew up in the perfect childhood neighborhood—little house with a big back yard that backed up to woods we explored for hours, a park that was a short walk through the woods or a longer walk around the sidewalks, blocks from my best friends, right by a creek to dangerously play in, and only a couple minutes from my elementary school. Halloween in that arena was childhood perfection—except when it was so cold your mom made you wear a winter coat over your costume. Lame. My friends would sometimes trick-or-treat together in theme (or maybe just once when we killed it with The Wizard of Oz. I was the Scarecrow.). We knew what we were doing; we knew where to go; we knew how to get there. We weren’t idiots messing around with those cute little pumpkin bags. We used pillow cases and did not let our costumes slow us down. (If you can’t see in your mask, then take the damn thing off because we’re not waiting for you.) There was the house down the street that gave out little bags of pennies (assholes); the one that always had those terrible plastic-tasting, orange and black wrapped “candies”; and the one that gave out real full-sized candy bars. Our next-door neighbors sometimes made my sister and me something special: caramel apples or cookies. We knew we could take homemade treats from the neighbors (but no one else, because then they’d obviously be spiked with poison or housing razor blades). As we got older we didn’t turn into hoodlums on the one acceptable night of the year (aside from one, vaguely remembered, shaving cream fight incident with some boys)—I like to think because we appreciated the trouble that our neighbors went through for the sake of kids—most of whom they didn’t even know. I never understood why anyone would smash a jack-o-lantern created for the sake of all passersby. It’s like sin: you’re only hurting yourself there. Or something.

Anyway, now that I know there is in fact an occasion for all the fuss, which most people ignore or have no idea exists, I’m still into Halloween. My family is culturally Catholic but I never knew about All Saints’ until I discovered it as some fun-fact during adolescence. Then it just seemed like an ancient leftover that Americans had appropriated into something fun. To me, learning that Halloween comes from All Hallows’ Eve was comparable to the day name Thursday coming from the Norse god Thor. It used to mean something; now it doesn’t.

So yes, the way that most people interact with All Saints’ Day is pretty depressing to me. One of the richest days of the Church Year is reduced to something frivolous or worse—something at least aesthetically vicious. However! I’m still into it. Halloween doesn’t have to be vicious and it certainly isn’t devil-worshiping…you know, unless you’re a devil-worshipper to begin with. I’m not going to give you an argument for that; half the people reading this probably don’t even care. I will just say that you can participate in All Saints’ Day and have Halloween funtimes without being wrong. All are welcome, so to speak. If you think Halloween is evil, then cool; you’re not invited to my next Halloween party. If you don’t know what All Saints’ Day is, then we should probably talk about it.

Saints according to Fra Angelico.

All Saints’ Day is one of the few holy days of obligation in the Catholic Church. It celebrates all Saints (those people who have already entered Heaven)—the ones that have been officially recognized by the Church and the ones that haven’t. It’s like a feast day times one million; a day that encompasses everything we hope for from this life and the next; a special day to pray for intercession from Saints known and unknown. It is followed by All Souls’ Day—when we remember every person who has died and pray for their souls. These are two very, very important days to recognize as they help us to have a proper attitude toward death and life.

This year I was able to celebrate both Halloween and All Saints’ Day to perfection. On Halloween I attended a costume party full of friends, food, drinks, and fairly constant trick-or-treater interruptions. Everyone dressed up; everyone looked awesome; everyone had a great time: just your basic successful party. It was so fun to oooo and ahhh over trick-or-treaters’ costumes and watch their bemused/condescending reactions to a bunch of over-enthusiastic, costumed twenty-somethings. Shout out to Kate S. for being the best skeleton host a friend could ask for. She fed us a fantastic quinoa chili so we didn’t get too hopped up on the candy we were supposed to be handing out. Shout out to Emily M. for the best cat-dance moves to the monster mash. I was a fox-hunter.

Fox hunter, obvi.

Cat, Mary Poppin’s ghost, unimpressed gymnast, Fantastic Mrs. Fox.

Fox hunter confronting the ghost of Mary Poppins with her own umbrella. Skeleton hostess looking on knowingly. PS, you can’t really see it but Kate painted that anatomically correct skeleton costume herself. Super impressive.

On All Saints’ Day I went to Mass then a wonderful All Saints’ party—this time the costumes were of saints and the party started with our priest’s blessing: just your basic successful weird Catholic party. The night started with too much amazing food and ended with song-singing around a fire pit. Shout out to Ryan W. for hosting with the best of them. Shout out to Evelyn for being the cutest baby Saint Michael the Archangel ever in the whole world. I was my Confirmation Saint, Elizabeth of Hungary. I’m sure I’ll tell you about her soon as her feast day is coming up.

Our host, Moses. (Ryan)

Our photographer, Santa Lucia. (Andrea)

My attempts at Medieval gear. Saint Elizabeth of Hungary.

My Saint-niece, Saint Elizabeth of Portugal. (DeAnn)

Saint Mary, baby Jesus in the womb, Saint John as the Eagle, and Saint Michael the Archangel. (Wendy, baby Moore, Cameron, and Evelyn)

Pirate saint, and co.

I made some pretty amazing fall tarts for the All Saints’ party and shall recipe you up this week.