I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to words. I love to study their origins, their etymology, to more fully understand their meaning. A word that will be on many people’s minds this weekend is Halloween and in case you don’t know, it has a fascinating origin. All Saints Day, which is celebrated on November 1, was originally known as All Hallows Day and is an annual celebration of the saints who have gone on before us and whose lives are worthy of admiration and emulation. The evening before All Hallows Day became known as All Hallows Eve and over time All Hallows Eve morphed into our modern name for this day, Halloween.
To continue my nerdish interest in words, I must note that I love the word hallow even though it is not a word that currently gets much use. Exceptions are when someone talks about the “hallowed halls”of a particular institution, most often a university or school, or when someone talks about sacred ground, such a cemetery or battlefield. Of course, if a person says the Lord’s Prayer on a regular basis then he or she is using the word hallowed as they pray the phrase “hallowed be your name.” When people pray the words of the Lord’s Prayer they are saying that they believe God’s name to be holy, sacred, or hallowed.
The word hallowed, from which our word Halloween is derived, means holy or sacred. When we refer to something as hallowed we are saying that it has special, often spiritual, significance for us. So with all the attention to Halloween this week, perhaps it is a good time to pause and reflect on just what we celebrate as hallowed or holy in our lives.
In our Living Compass programs we invite people to pause and reflect on what is most important in their lives. We remind them that there are many compasses that are competing to guide our lives, including the compasses of our popular culture, the values of our families of origin, of our friends, our work, and our spirituality. To make our spirituality or our values our primary compass means to identify what we believe to be most holy, most hallowed, and then to align the decisions we make in our lives with those values and beliefs.
If we say that our faith, other people, or nature are holy to us, then we want to live our lives in a way that is integrated with these beliefs. To do otherwise will, over time, foster a sense of dis-ease and dis-integration. However, when the core decisions in our lives do align with our core beliefs and values, we will experience a greater sense of joy, meaning, and satisfaction. It’s as easy as that, and as hard as that.
So lest this discussion of Halloween and the meaning of hallowed get too serious, just know that I will be happily answering the door and handing out candy to the trick-or-treaters this Saturday. Why? Because while I can’t necessarily say I believe candy corn and chocolate bars are holy, I can say without a doubt that having fun with others, especially children, is one of the holiest, most hallowed activities I know.