All Saints Church will be continuing its tradition this year of celebrating “All Hallows’ Eve.”
As usual, the church will be transferring this celebration from Oct. 31 to coincide with the Beggars’ Night celebration in Washington Court House (this Thursday from 5-8 p.m.).
Like many holy days of the church, the celebration of All Hallows’ Eve (or Hallowe’en) has undergone a shift from a Christian holy day into a cultural holiday. Many of the activities the church does today have their roots in the Christian history of the event.
For instance, the spooky nature of the holiday comes from the practice of keeping the church (which sat in the middle of a graveyard) open through the night. The church would be lit by candles and the church-bell would be tolled (rung slowly in the same manner used at funerals) from dusk until dawn. This was done to call the lost souls (those that resisted or got confused on their way to the afterlife) back to the church where their path would be clear.
Another example is the practice of dressing up as monsters, specifically those deemed unholy. The idea was that by taking on their appearance, we were proclaiming that, as followers of Christ, we knew that they held no power over us – they were just pretend.
Finally, we give out gifts (candy) to children. This one is a blending from the start of something cultural with something religious. In feudal times, there was a practice called misrule where at certain festivals, the social order was reversed (with strict rules and limits). At these times, the peasants could demand gifts from the nobility. This may seem like generosity, but it was actually designed to give false hope to the peasants and keep them from rising up against their rulers.
The church blended this with almsgiving (giving to the poor), bringing the two celebrations together as it did in other major festivals such as Christmas (blended with fertility festivals around the winter solstice) and Easter (blended with festivals around the spring equinox).
In celebrations this year, All Saints will have the church open during Beggars’ Night festivities. It will be tolling its bell and handing out candy to children. Any child who wishes to ring the bell will be given that chance as well.
All Saints Church is located at 733 State Route 41 SW in Washington Court House.