November is the eleventh and penultimate month of the year in the Julian and Gregorian Calendars, the fourth and last of four months to have a length of 30 days and the fifth and last of five months to have a length of fewer than 31 days. November was the ninth month of the calendar of Romulus c. 750 BC. November retained its name (from the Latin novem meaning “nine”) when January and February were added to the Roman calendar. November is a month of late spring in the Southern Hemisphere and late autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. Therefore, November in the Southern Hemisphere is the seasonal equivalent of May in the Northern Hemisphere and vice versa.
In Ancient Rome, Ludi Plebeii (“folks’ plays,” from where Halloween emerged) was held from November 4–17, Epulum Jovis (sumptuous feasting) was held on November 13 and Brumalia celebrations (winter solstice festivities, from which Thanksgiving festivity emanated) began on November 24. These dates do not correspond to the modern Gregorian calendar.
Long ago in Ireland and Britain, Christians would come together on All Hallows Eve to ask for God’s blessing and protection from the evil in the world. The source of the modern celebrations stemmed from the donning of saintly and evil spirit costumes to act out the battle between good and evil. According to dictionary.com, the word “Halloween” is a “direct derivation of All Saints Day” with “All Hallows” in Old English meaning “the feast of the saints.”
“Halloween” has also been translated to “Eve of All Hallows,” which was a holy day celebrating the day before All Saints Day. Reverend Richard Donohoe, the vicar of Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Birmingham, described All Saints Day as “a celebration of the communion of saints, those people we believe are in heaven, through good works and God’s grace.” All Saints’ Day is celebrated on the first day of November while All Souls’ Day is celebrated November 2. All Saints’ Day is a day Catholics offer prayers to those in purgatory. Reverend Donohoe said, “All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day are related, but they are two separate celebrations. On All Saints’ Day there’s a call to live as saints, to remind us how we’re supposed to live. On All Souls’ Day, we’re talking about all souls and asking God’s mercy for them.
“We’re talking about those people who have died before us, and their process of getting to heaven, through Christ… It has its roots all the way back to the fourth century.” It is on this day that the Book of the Dead is opened to allow parishioners to write the names of relatives to be remembered. All Souls’ Day is a commemoration of the faithfully departed and is observed primarily in the Catholic Church. Its origins date back to European folklore related to customs of veneration practiced worldwide through events like the Mexican Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos), or the Chinese Ghost Festival. To remember the departed, many cultures prepare meals for the souls of the dead, light candles or leave flowers on relatives’ graves and some anoint tombstones with holy water or pour milk over them.