A Three-Day Halloween

I don’t go to church that much anymore, but I am still very fond of the Episcopal church. I wasn’t fond dragging myself out of my warm bed to go sit through a long, long sermon and our typically dry and sleep-inducing hymns, but I enjoyed singing in five or six different Episcopal choirs (I believe I was in five at one time), and I loved doing other church activities. Some of my favorite memories are of my time spent away at our mountain retreat, Shrine Mont, in Orkney Springs, at the biannual youth retreats in Culpeper we called Voices, and the three summers I spent at Shrine Mont’s summer art camp. I made some great friends, many of whom I’m still in touch with today, and I often credit Voices with developing some of my leadership skills (as I designed and lead one of the weekends myself around 1 Corinthians 13), and art camp with encouraging me to be more confident and to make friends more easily.

One of the things our own church did every year was put on a huge Halloween party – okay, huge by small town standards. I could not wait till we dragged out the big black wooden coffin and the gravestone-shaped sign every year, and figured out what rooms we would put on the haunted house tour. One year I was an insane screaming girl in an asylum, and another year I was some hapless chick who got thrown into a cauldron full of fog. Before the party, we would gather near the entrance to the graveyard as a lay reader conducted a small service to remember the dead. We Episcopalians took our Halloween very seriously, and not in the “Hell House” sense.

Episcopalians have three special days centered around remembering the dead; the collective term is Hallowmas. All Hallows Eve is simply the night before All Saints Day and representative of a mostly secular celebration prior to two days of remembrance and prayer. Interestingly enough, history teaches that Roman Catholics took over this holiday from the pagans and moved it to November 1, but even so, we always made a special event out of Halloween/All Hallows. All Saints Day is the time to remember the saints, often learning stories about them in Sunday school, and All Souls Day is reserved to honor all of the departed. Now, how common the complete Hallowmas celebration is, I’m not sure, but all the same … Happy All Souls to us all, and may you remember everyone you love with joy.

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