A few pictures from around the Archabbey (a friend of our Br. Maximilian, OSB did a beautiful job in carving the Abbey Seal into a pumpkin). Also, you can see the beautiful colors in the leaves changing around the Monastery.
31 October and 1 and 2 November are called, colloquially (not officially), "Hallowtide" or the "Days of the Dead" because on these days we pray for or remember those who've left this world.
The days of the dead center around All Saints' Day (also known as All Hallows') on November 1, when we celebrate all the Saints in Heaven. On the day after All Hallows', we remember the saved souls who are in Purgatory being cleansed of the temporal effects of their sins before they can enter Heaven. The day that comes before All Hallows', though, is one on which we unofficially remember the damned and the reality of Hell. The schema, then, for the Days of the Dead looks like this:
October 31: Hallowe'en:
unofficially recalls the souls of the damned. Practices center around the reality of Hell and how to avoid it.
November 1: All Saints':
set aside to officially honor the Church Triumphant. Practices center around recalling our great Saints, including those whose names are unknown to us and, so, are not canonizedNovember 2: All Souls':
set aside officially to pray for the Church Suffering (the souls in Purgatory). Practices center around praying for the souls in Purgatory, especially our loved ones
The earliest form of All Saints' (or "All Hallows'") was first celebrated in the 300s, but originally took place on 13 May, as it still does in some Eastern Churches. The Feast first commemorated only the martyrs, but came to include all of the Saints by 741. It was transferred to 1 November in 844 when Pope Gregory III consecrated a chapel in St. Peter's Basilica to All Saints (so much for the theory that the day was fixed on 1 November because of a bunch of Irish pagans had harvest festivals at that time).
All Souls' has its origins in A.D. 1048 when the Bishop of Cluny decreed that the Benedictines of Cluny pray for the souls in Purgatory on this day. The practice spread until Pope Sylvester II recommended it for the entire Latin Church.
The Vigil of, or evening before, All Hallows' ("Hallows' Eve," or "Hallowe'en") came, in Irish popular piety, to be a day of remembering the dead who are neither in Purgatory or Heaven, but are damned, and these customs spread to many parts of the world. Thus we have the popular focus of Hallowe'en as the reality of Hell, hence its scary character and focus on evil and how to avoid it, the sad fate of the souls of the damned, etc.
How, or even whether, to celebrate Hallowe'en is a controversial topic in traditional circles. One hears too often that "Hallowe'en is a pagan holiday" -- an impossibility because "Hallowe'en," as said, means "All Hallows' Evening" which is as Catholic a holiday as one can get. Some say that the holiday actually stems from Samhain, a pagan Celtic celebration, or is Satanic, but this isn't true, either, any more than Christmas "stems from" the Druids' Yule, though popular customs that predated the Church may be involved in our celebrations (it is rather amusing that October 31 is also "Reformation Day" in Protestant circles -- the day to recall Luther's having nailed his 95 Theses to Wittenberg's cathedral door -- but Protestants who reject "Hallowe'en" because pagans used to do things on October 31 don't object to commemorating that event on this day).
Some traditional Catholics, objecting to the definite secularization of the holiday and to the myth that the entire thing is "pagan" to begin with, refuse to celebrate it in any way at all, etc. Other traditional Catholics celebrate it without qualm, though keeping it Catholic and staying far away from some of the ugliness that surrounds the day in the secular world. However one decides to spend the day, it is hoped that the facts are kept straight, and that Catholics refrain from judging other Catholics who decide to celebrate differently.
For those who do want to celebrate Hallowe'en, customs of this day are a mixture of Catholic popular devotions, and French, Irish, and English customs all mixed together. From the French we get the custom of dressing up, which originated during the time of the Black Death when artistic renderings of the dead known as the "Danse Macabre," were popular. These "Dances of Death" were also acted out by people who dressed as the dead. Later, these practices were moved to Hallowe'en when the Irish and French began to intermarry in America.
From the Irish come the carved Jack-o-lanterns, which were originally carved turnips. The legend surrounding the Jack-o-Lantern is this:
There once was an old drunken trickster named Jack, a man known so much for his miserly ways that he was known as "Stingy Jack," He loved making mischief on everyone -- even his own family, even the Devil himself! One day, he tricked Satan into climbing up an apple tree -- but then carved Crosses on the trunk so the Devil couldn't get back down. He bargained with the Evil One, saying he would remove the Crosses only if the Devil would promise not to take his soul to Hell; to this, the Devil agreed.
After Jack died, after many years filled with vice, he went up to the Pearly Gates -- but was told by St. Peter that he was too miserable a creature to see the Face of Almighty God. But when he went to the Gates of Hell, he was reminded that he couldn't enter there, either! So, he was doomed to spend his eternity roaming the earth. The only good thing that happened to him was that the Devil threw him an ember from the burning pits to light his way, an ember he carried inside a hollowed-out, carved turnip.