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October 31, 2005


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HALLOW E'EN is All Hallows Eve, the vigil of the celebration of All Saints Day, November 1, in the the Christian Liturgical Calendar. Although there are pre-Christian elements in the festival of fertility vegetation god(s)who die in autumn and rise in the spring, Halloween in the church calendar is All Souls Day. It commemorates those souls in purgatory hoping for admission to heaven as saints.

HELP THE POOR = "Help the poor souls." They are seen as wandering about begging for our prayers on their behalf beseeching God to shorten the souls' time in purgatory. "Treats" are physical symbols of prayers or good works that might be offered up in behalf of the Poor Souls. Traditionally, extra masses, penances, or good works might be concentrated on All Souls Day to assure their deliverance in time for All Hallows Day, which is All Saints Day (still a Holy Day of Obligation in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lansing that includes Ann Arbor). The Mexican Day of the Dead is a cogante variant of inculturated Catholicism

"HELP THE POOR" is a cry for good works to benefit the unfortunate. Hence, the UNICEF money collection fit right in with the spirit of the Christian festival.

DEVILS, witches, goblins and the like are seen as wandering about hoping for a last chance to snatch sinners before they are ready for heaven.

Armchair theologians might keep in mind that the Catholic universe is essentially communal. Prayers--and other good works--by one person might be applied to benefit another (indulgences, for example). The Protestant view, prevalent in the American imagination, is more individualistic.

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