By Cory J. Howat
Maybe because it is easy to see our above-ground tombs when you drive down the road. Maybe our Catholic-rich culture in New Orleans wrestles with our existence past our time on this earth a good deal. Either way, Halloween is a big deal in this city and I would make the assumption it is simply because All Hallows is a big deal in this city. Hear me out…
Everything from French Quarter ghost tours and cemetery tours to Voodoo Fest, people flock to New Orleans to hear about our dead. We even had the Archdiocesan-owned Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1 make news because the restoration work on Marie Laveau’s tomb was to be completed on Halloween. People are intrigued by death here and everywhere… for centuries.
Many people, unfortunately, have lost the deep connection between Halloween to a coming weekend of Catholic feasts though. Maybe we can help change that tide. You see, Halloween only falls on the last day of October because All Saints Day, or “All Hallows,” falls on November 1st. All Saints Day is our wonderful feast in honor of all the saints in heaven, known or unknown. As in many Church feasts, you can celebrate the night before, or on the Eve. So, the day before was the feast’s evening vigil, “All Hallows Even,” or “Hallowe’en.” The day after All Saints Day is known as All Souls Day. This was a day of prayer for the souls of all the faithful departed.
So you may ask what is the connection? In New Orleans, family can be a big deal. I love the degrees of separation in this city between a stranger and a relative and family experiences help make up half my stories. My family is definitely a big part of who I am. Part of this connection to family was developed over many years that my parents and many parents across the south-Louisiana area took their children to the tombs of their ancestors on All Saints Day. Here, they told stories of love and laughter from memory and used the visit to pass on the deep connection to our Catholic faith. If you can imagine, for many years, stories were the only way the faith was passed along to younger generations. Visiting the tombs and bringing flowers to my grandparents on All Saints Day was just as part of my life as trick or treating. Some things never change.
So, to all you Catholic parents out there. Enjoy the trick or treating this evening. Know that this special time when the kids get IVs of sugar and dress in adorable or sometimes scary costumes that the family time is to be cherished like no other. But please don’t let it end there. Wake up the next day and join in the generations, go dust off the family tomb, bring some flowers, tell some stories and dive into the richness of our Catholic faith! Say a prayer of thanks for all those that have gone before us to make our lives possible. Take in the tombs along with the costumes!
Don’t let anyone try to suppress your KitKat addiction by stopping the trick or treating, instead, teach up the whole Christian significance and make this weekend of Feasts a deep familial connection to all the saints and souls!
Oh, and after that road win last night, we can’t forget the other Saints that were purposefully formed and named on the Solemnity of All Saints, Happy 48th Birthday WhoDats!
Cory J. Howat is the Director of Stewardship for the Archdiocese of New Orleans. His love for traveling, culture and adventure provide a unique perspective on life and the universal Church. For more about this blogger, click here.