Candles in a cemetery on All Hallows' Eve. Photo: el-lobo/Shutterstock
Historically, the Western church has observed this as a night of vigil, prayer and fasting before All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. Some scholars think All Hallows’ Eve absorbed elements from the ancient Celtic new year, Samhain (“summer’s end”), when the veil between the material and immaterial worlds thinned and spirits walked abroad—notions that later evolved into the folk festival of Hallowe’en. During the Christianization of Britain, missionaries would commonly incorporate pagan observances into the Christian calendar to ease the process of conversion. Lutherans celebrate Oct. 31, the date Luther posted his Wittenberg theses, as the birth of the Reformation.
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Diana Swift is an award-winning writer and editor with 30 years’ experience in newspaper and magazine editing and production. In January 2011, she joined the Anglican Journal as a contributing editor.
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