In recent decades, Hallowe'en has become perceived as a pagan celebration—a day of witches, gnomes, Kim Kardashian, and the Devil himself. I've heard a number of people proclaiming the day "my favorite holiday," further explaining that they liked it because it was a big celebration devoid of religious associations. Nothing could be further from the truth. Since the year 800, the date has had religious importance. Hallowe'en—All Hallows' Eve—is the vigil night before the important Christian celebration, The Feast of All Saints (celebrated 1 November) also known as All Saints' Day or All Hallows' Day or Hallowmas. And the following day (2 November) is also special—All Souls's Day, a day dedicated to honoring all the dead (sainted or not).
On the other side of the "reaction spectrum" are those hair-trigger parents who adamantly refuse to let their children carve a pumpkin or go door-to-door with their friends, believing the day is an evil tribute to the Prince of the Underworld. This seems to be an over-reaction as well.
One explanation of the earliest Hallowe'en does involve the re-formation of an earlier (pre-Christian) Celtic festivity celebrating the end of the harvest season. However, for at least twelve hundred years, the feast has been associated with Saints and the Holy Departed. In these early days—and into the Middle Ages—when communities were too poor to obtain and display valuable saintly relics, the faithful were allowed to dress-up as saints themselves—which sometimes took a macabre twist. Earlier generations embraced a more straightforward (and less sanitized) interpretation of death and the dead—unlike our modern times which prefers to hold death at a distance. These earlier practices may have shaped the ghoulish customs of Hallowe'en in the present day.
Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well! Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).
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