All Hallows’ Eve

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What is a saint? A boy went to church with his mother on a sunny Sundaymorning. He was enthusiastic about the many colourful glass figuresthat the sun traced through the stained glass windows onto the floor andhe excitedly asked his mother what this and that meant. She whisperedthat this was such and such a saint, and that was another. Some timeafterward, in religion class, the teacher asked if anybody knew what asaint was. The excited boy, raising his hand, said “I do”. “A saint issomeone that the light shines through!” —Various versions of this popular story of unknown origins exist. Photo: P. Burghardt/Shutterstock
What is a saint? A boy went to church with his mother on a sunny Sundaymorning. He was enthusiastic about the many colourful glass figuresthat the sun traced through the stained glass windows onto the floor andhe excitedly asked his mother what this and that meant. She whisperedthat this was such and such a saint, and that was another. Some timeafterward, in religion class, the teacher asked if anybody knew what asaint was. The excited boy, raising his hand, said “I do”. “A saint issomeone that the light shines through!” —Various versions of this popular story of unknown origins exist. Photo: P. Burghardt/Shutterstock

This article first appeared in the November 2013 issue of the Anglican Journal.

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
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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