The earliest mention of Halloween? John Mirk’s “Festivall” or “Festial” or “Liber Festivalis

This evening I happened to come across Lisa Morton, The Halloween Encyclopedia (2011).  I can see some errors in it, but on the whole it is an admirable effort.  On p.148, under “Parties”, we find this statement:

One of the earliest written mentions of Halloween, from the 1493 Festivall, contains this description of what sounds like a contemporary Halloween party: “Good frendes suche a daye ye shall haue all halowen daye.”

Appendix I : Chronology of Halloween, (p.203), has the first mention of halloween as:

1493—Festivall mentions celebrating Halloween with “good frendes”

There is no reference, unfortunately.  What on earth is “Festivall”?

The old Bodleian “Catalogus Librorum Impressorum Bibliothecae Bodleianae” vol 2., p.40 (online here) tells us of a “Liber festivalis [anglice]” printed in Westmonesterio [by W. de Worde] in 1493 – this is perhaps the source of the date given above -, and below also of “The boke that is callid festivall” printed at Oxford by Theod. Rood and Th. Hunt in 1486.  None of this is easily accessible, and what is the book anyway?

Some intensive googling later, I discover that it is a book composed in the late 1380s by the Augustinian canon John Mirk, and one of the most commonly printed English books before 1500.  It is a sermon collection, organised by saint’s day, and written in English rather than Latin.  The sermons usually contain stories and anecdotes.  The book is today often referred to as “John Mirk’s Festial“.

The standard edition is Johannes Mirkus (John Mirk), Mirk’s Festial: A Collection of Homilies, ed. Theodor Erbe; series: Early English Text Society extra series XCVI, London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co. for the Early English Text Society, 1905.  This thankfully is online at here.  Unfortunately it is printed in Middle English, complete with weird letters.  The text is readable enough, with a bit of effort.  There is a glossary at  the back.

A new edition is in progress by Susan Powell, but this I was unable to access.

I have not been able to find the text given, not even by searching for “frend”.  Possibly Morton used the more up-to-date edition?  But on p.266, we find the start of the sermon for All Saints Day (click to enlarge):

It gives a history of the celebration of All Saint’s Day, referencing Pope Gregory (IV).

The text uses “halowen” to mean “hallow, keep holy”, rather than Halloween.  This is confirmed by the glossary at the end, on p.328:

This all rather suggests that Morton is in a mistake here – that this is not a reference to Halloween at all.

All the same, the Halloween Encyclopedia is both useful and interesting.  I sympathised entirely with the statement in the preface about “sources”:

Unfortunately, many of those source books are little more than collections of fairy tales. They often seem to have been poorly researched, and displayed prejudice or predilection on the part of their authors.

So it still is.