All Saints’ Day is a holiday during which we celebrate our ancestors’ dedication to keeping God’s people in God’s image. 

However, the calendar for this weekend is really crowded with other stuff. In spite of the religious significance of All Saints’ Day, the words which we most often hear during this season are apt to be trick-or-treat, costumes, candy, pranks and jack-o-lanterns, words more common in the celebration of Halloween, an observance which we don’t usually regard as religious. Could there possibly be a connection between these two events other than their proximity to each other on the calendar?

I grew up in a fairly conservative Protestant neighborhood and did not know that Halloween had religious connections. Halloween was a fun time. It had nothing to do with saints. We did not have saints in the Baptist church. My Catholic friends did make a special effort to attend Mass the next day. I thought that was repentance for the pranks of the evening before. I had some other friends who did not participate in Halloween because their parents thought it was part of a pagan ceremony connected to the Druids. For all I knew, they could just as well have been that hard-to-get-to-know family who frequently accused me of throwing their newspaper in the bushes.     

The Catholic Church in the ninth and 10th centuries made an effort to consolidate and Christianize several events around All Saints’ Day but were not entirely successful in that All Saints’ Eve remained separate and eventually became Halloween but still a religious observance. All Souls’ Day was added later as a celebration of all departed souls who were the faithful departed, thought not quite saints. The religious community eventually lost most of the spiritual essence of Halloween to fun-seekers and pranksters.

So as you enjoy your trick-or-treat booty this weekend, you might ask yourself, who are my saints?  Who are Leavenworth’s saints? Who are our nation’s saints?

Jim McKinney lives in downtown Leavenworth.