Allhallowtide: a Triduum of Remembering

“Strange, the things you remember.
The people, the places, the moments in time burned into your heart forever, while others fade in the mist.
I’ve always known I’ve lived a life different from other men.
When I was a lad, I saw no path before me.
I simply took a step and then another, ever forward, ever onward, rushing toward someplace, I knew not where.
And one day I turned around and looked back and saw that each step I’d taken was a choice.
To go left, to go right, to go forward, or even not go at all.
Every day, every man has a choice between right and wrong, between love and hate, sometimes between life and death.
And the sum of those choices becomes your life.”

~ Jamie – Outlander, The Reckoning

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Allhallowtide is the triduum encompassing the Western Christian observances of All Hallows’ Eve (Hallowe’en), All Saints’ Day (All Hallows’) and All Souls’ Day, which lasts from October 31 to November 2 annually.  It is a time to remember the dead, including martyrs, saints and all faithful departed Christians.

All Hallows’ Eve, better known today as Hallowe’en, is the eve of All Hallows (All Saints’ Day), and the first day of the Allhallowtide.  On All Hallows’ Eve, Christians traditionally believed that the veil between the material world and the afterlife thinned.  In order to prevent recognition by a soul, people would don masks or costumes to disguise their identities.

The second day of Allhallowtide is known as All Saints’ Day.  Occurring on November 1, it is a holy day to honour all the saints and martyrs, both known and unknown.  All Hallows seeks to especially honour the blessed who have not been canonised and who have no special feast day.  On All Saints’ Day, many Christians visit graveyards and cemeteries in order to place flowers and candles on the graves of their loved ones.

The final day of Allhallowtide is known as All Souls’ Day, and is also called the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed.  All Souls’ Day focuses on honouring all faithful Christians who are unknown in the wider fellowship of the church, especially family members and friends.  Like All Hallows’ Eve and All Saints’ Day, family members often attend mass and visit the graves of their deceased loved ones, placing flowers and lighted candles there.

In England, a popular tradition associated with All Souls’ Day arose, called ‘souling,’ in which bands of children or of poor men, went round to the houses of the well-to-do on Souling Day, as they called it, begging for money, apples, ale, or portions of cake.  Today, this practice is known as ‘trick or treating,’ which as you know, now takes place on the evening of Hallowe’en.

It is ironic that I have chosen to share my thoughts and feelings about these holy days with you, especially because I have gently released any attachments that I may have had to Christianity and opted to rather embrace the teachings and practices of Buddhism…especially when considering that I am back from an extended hiatus.

Allhallowtide is the only celebration in the Christian liturgical calendar that I am able (and willing) to be mindful of because of its invitation to commemorate and honour the people that have gone before me; who I continue to hold dear and whose presence in my life have made an impact.

May we give ourselves time to pause and thank these people for the way that their presence in our lives have helped shape who we are and where we find ourselves to be today.  But, may we also reflect upon the steps that we have taken on our journey and be reminded that wherever we may find ourselves to be – right here, right now, in this moment, regardless of how blissful or terrifying it may be – we are exactly where we need to be today, in order for us to get to where we are called to be tomorrow.  And may we always remember that we are never truly alone.

Wishing you a blessed and life-giving Allhallowtide.

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