At this time of year we see many signs of harvest festivals.
Pumpkins and corn stalks, scarecrows and sprays of colorful leaves catch your eye as you pass along many streets. But that is about all there is left of those festivals: signs and decorations. In more rural areas where farming is still the main source of yearly income, festivals may still be found and enjoyed.
For all of us, a bit of a change of pace is good for our emotional and mental health. There are three observances that come each year just about the same time as the rural harvest festivals. Those observances are Halloween, especially for children, All Saints Day, especially for the Church, and All Souls Day, especially for families.
For the little children on Halloween there are often parties with games such as bobbing for apples and special foods like Holloweenies. If you have never prepared them before, here is the recipe. Boil one dozen hot dogs until the skins split. Separate the meat and the skins.
Add mustard, ketchup and sweet pickle relish to the skins and serve them in a casserole. Give the meat to the dogs: they love it. (I don’t know why the recipe never made it to Fanny Farmer’s Cook Book!)
Now to get back to Halloween. When the parties are over, it is time for the trick-or-treaters to put on their costume parade and go out to get their stash of candy. Following those young children, there will sometimes be some older children bent on mischief; not a good idea.
I remember one year, when I was no longer young enough to make the candy rounds of the neighborhood, I asked what time I had to be back in the house. I was told I did not have a curfew that night. Well!
Come nine o’clock, my buddy and I were standing under a street light freezing our hands and feet and we thought, “Forget the open curfew. It would be better to be home and warm, listening to the radio.” Enjoy your Halloween.
All Saints Day is for the Church. It is a Holy Day of obligation when we gather to celebrate all the blessed in heaven. Unfortunately, some people try to tell us that it is simply a Catholic attempt to Christianize a pagan feast. This simply shows their bias and their ignorance of history. This is an excellent opportunity to start making new friends who will be our companions for eternity. Perhaps you could start by looking up short biographies of saints with the same name as your various families members. Then, once you are on a first name basis with that saint, to pray for the continued benefit of the work of that saint for the Church.
We members of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church often think of our religious background as being in the language of Rome, which was Latin. The language known throughout the Roman Empire at the time of the early Church, however, was Greek. In each of the modern languages of lands of the former Roman Empire there are connections to the words that the early Christians used in Greek. I’ll give you a few of those connections for English: eucharist (English), eucharistos (transliterated Greek); priest, presbyteros; deacon, diaconos; bishop, episcopos; cemetery, koimeterion, etc. It is the last word in this short list of Greek connections that is important here. The modern English equivalent from the Latin translation is dormitory. Never before Christianity was the place for placing the bodies of the dead so named.
Each time Jesus raised someone back to life, He said the person was asleep. When Peter raised a young girl, he said she was asleep.
When the deacon Stephen was martyred, the Acts of Apostles says, “He fell asleep.’’ So then, the very word cemetery is a testimony to our faith.
It is a word of hope, resurrection, reunion, eternal life. A secular and pagan society over the centuries has tried to attack our faith by seeing the grave as the rotten and rotting end of a person rather than a place to sleep until called forth in the general resurrection.
It might be useful to take the living family to the cemetery to join the deceased members in memory and future solidarity in the Happy Days to come.
Father Buote is a retired priest of the Diocese of Fall River and a regular Anchor contributor.