The Catholic Church has celebrated All Hallow's Eve as the night before All Saints Day since the 300s, when the vigil was first initiated to remember the early Martyrs of the Church and then later included a commemoration of all the Saints. Today, the Church celebrates not only the Saints who have made it to Heaven with All Saints Day on November 1, but also remembers those who have died and are in purgatory with the commemoration of All Souls Day on November 2nd. Historically, this time of year also coincided with various cultures remembering some of their pagan gods.
As a country of immigrants, it's not surprising that the American celebration now known as Halloween has morphed into it's own set of traditions and practices. According to one Catholic website, the practices we will celebrate this evening have their roots in France, Ireland, and England. The custom of dressing up comes from the French, "which originated during the time of the Black Death when artistic renderings of the dead known as the 'Danse Macabre,' were popular."
The Irish bring us the Great Pumpkin. They were the originators of "the carved Jack-o-lanterns, which were originally carved turnips." From the English comes the tradition of "trick-or-treating." Children would go door-to-door begging "their neighbors for a 'Soul Cake,' for which they would say a prayer for those neighbors' dead." A soul cake was a type of shortbread, the precursor to our doughnut. Instead of saying trick-or-treat, "they would say either:
A Soul Cake, a Soul ave mercy on all Christian souls for a soul cake!
Soul, soul, an apple or two, If you haven't an apple, a pear will do, One for Peter, two for Paul, Three for the Man Who made us all."
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