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All Saints’ Day

I’ll admit it. I was, half-heartedly, raised Catholic. Though, as Jessamyn recently put it, I’ve never been a big believer in a “capital-G God”. Nor am I a big fan of organized religion. But there is something oddly comforting, and/or intriguing, about the religious rites of my youth. Especially midnight mass. Sure, the celebration is “based on the ancient belief that Jesus was born precisely on the stroke of twelve”. But what’s most impressive about it, really, is that people willingly leave their warm beds…late on a cold winter’s night (well, especially cold in my home state). And many manage to coerce their bleary-eyed children to go along with them. I went grudgingly when my own mother dragged us along. But once there, being in the company of sleepy strangers at that odd hour nearly made me giddy. It was a break from routine (almost on par with the beloved school field trip). But the best part were the luminarias…glowing softly against the snow and the night sky. And the hundreds of candles lighting up the cold church. I haven’t attended any mass in years, but have toyed with the idea of observing a midnight mass. Just for the hell of it. This reminiscing came about as today has fallen on another interesting Catholic holiday, All Saints’ Day. Little mind is given to it in the U.S., despite Halloween’s religious tie-in. The pagan Halloween/Samhain was subsumed by the church as All Hallow’s Eve, the holy evening before the All Saints’ feast…a celebration of the saints who were never cannonized. In recent years Halloween’s popularity has taken off in Europe, much to the chagrin of religious officials. There’s been a push to to play it down and promote All Saints’ Day in its place. Good luck. But I do like their re-branding of the day. Focusing less on the unknown saints and instead describing it now as a day when “…French and several other European countries remember their departed loved ones.” Unless the dearly departed of Europe are more likely to have been unknown saints. Hmmm.