If you were to look closely at the word Halloween, you may notice that it means the Eve of All Hallows Day, November 1, which is also called All Saints’ Day. In fact, the period from October 31 through November 2 is sometimes referred to as Allhallowtide. In a way, the period is a kind of liturgical trifecta, in that November 2 is All Souls’ Day, also known as the Day of the Dead.
The idea of All Saints’ Day was primarily to commemorate the nameless martyrs who died for their faith at the hands of certain Roman emperors who persecuted them. Perhaps the largest single group is the Theban Legion, commanded by Saint Maurice, who was ordered by the Emperor Maximian to defeat rebels in what is now Switzerland and, in the process, to make sacrifices to pagan gods. Maurice and his men refused. As punishment, Maximian ordered the legion to be decimated, that is, to have every tenth man executed. After two rounds of decimation, it was decided to execute the entire legion, which consisted of some 6,700 legionaries. Their martyrdom took place in AD 286.
Above is a painting by Fra Angelico of various saints and martyrs, not including the entire Theban Legion. In fact, none of the saints depicted look particularly like Roman legionaries.
All Saints’ Day (November 1) is still considered a Holy Day of Obligation in the Catholic Church, during which all Catholics are required to attend Mass or commit a mortal sin for failure to comply.
Although I continue to hold warm feelings about my Catholic upbringing, I am pretty much a lapsed Catholic and am probably doomed to the fires of Heck.