This weekend brings us to the triad of three celebrations: Halloween, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. The traditions go a long way back in time. Hungary, just like every country, has its own take on the feast-days. Let’s see them in chronological order!
Halloween – 31rd of October
Halloween or ‘All Hallows’ Eve’ is the eve of All Saints’ Day. It’s a Celtic exorcist celebration of great antiquity. It’s one of the most awaited celebrations in Anglo-Saxon nations. It is slowly making its way into European countries where people tend to drive away dark and sombre winter nights with light and revelry. Hungary prefers to celebrate the two Christian celebrations following Halloween, although, university students and children like to dress up and have a sense of the Halloween spirit but it is not a tradition in Hungary. Most people think of it as a trend and are averse from it. Still, we should mention the Jack-O-Lantern Festival which supports a good cause. People have to bring carved Jack-O-Lanterns and put it down on Heroes’ Square. The organisers ask everyone to also bring canned or conserved food which will be given to the Charity for Feeding Children. The festival represents donation which was part of Halloween for a long time, especially in the United Kingdom.
All Saints’ Day – 1st of November
The roots of the tradition go back to the 4th century when people celebrated the day of martyrs. In that time, different churches celebrated on different days. In the 8th century, Pope Gregory III initiated a celebration for all saints, which was not the re-thinking of the day of the martyrs but a new proposal, and offered a side-chapel of the Saint Peter’s Cathedral to the saints of the church. It was Pope Gregory IV who made All Saints’ Day universal in 844. It stood for the union of all saints but lost some of its independence throughout the years. Many people mix it up with All Souls’ Day or even blend the two together. Once, it was the day to elect magistrates and pick new maids for the Hungarians. Any type of labour was forbidden on that day. (It is a labour-free day again since 2001.) The habit of going to the cemeteries on this day, which is also All Souls’ Eve, started in that time.
All Souls’ Day – 2nd of November
It was Abbot Saint Odilo of Cluny who ordered to commemorate the deceased souls as well as beatific souls in 998. This celebration also originates from the Catholic Church but was taken over by other churches as well. In Hungary, the day slowly became a general commemoration of the deceased, independent from religious beliefs. This is the day when we light candles and take some time to think about our loved ones who are not with us anymore. It has always been a tradition to clean and decorate the graves in the cemeteries so that the deceased souls stay in their place. Candles lit on the graves helped the souls, who leave the graves on this particular day, find their way back to their place. Legend has it that deceased people watched over their relatives that day, and if they saw them not helping out the poor, the deceased souls ran away crying. Others believed that the deceased resurrect that day so they set separate plates for them on the table and didn’t turn off the lights so that souls could find their way around. Some people even brought food to the graves which were later given to beggars. The week of All Souls’ Day is usually called the All Souls’ Week.
Written by Alexandra Béni