Don’t Trade Halloween for Reformation Sunday

Last October, my 12-year-old son stood in the aisle of our local pharmacy and held up a life-like foam replica of a human skull.

“How about this one?”

I winced. My son rolled his eyes.

“Come on!” he coaxed. “St. Francis had one!”

Of course he did. I placed the skull in our cart, along with an economy-pack of vampire teeth, a tube of fake blood, and a discounted package of candy corn. Now we were ready.

I sometimes struggle against my feminine impulses to “mommify” Halloween. Many of us moms would prefer to remove references to evil, fear, and death from our family’s observances of All Hallow’s Eve, much as we would prefer our sons to skip football and pursue gentler sports instead. Like chess.

In our discomfort, some of us avoid trick-or-treating and scary props and costumes altogether, in favor of All Saints Day celebrations. It’s the very next day, after all, and it’s definitely a Catholic feast. The kids still get to dress up and eat candy, and we all get to focus on the triumph of the saints, rather than all that evil, fear, and death stuff.

But we cheat ourselves when we skip over the scary and run straight to the glory. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating All Saints Day, of course, but evil, fear, and death are real, and Holy Mother Church doesn’t “mommify” any of it.

When I happened upon some skull-shaped molds at a craft store once, I was confused. The clerk explained that they were for calaveras de azúcar, a traditional sugar treat made to celebrate Mexico’s Day of the Dead. I don’t know the details of how this feast is celebrated in modern-day Mexico, but the concept of remembering the reality of death, even with frightening images of skulls and skeletons, is undeniably rooted deep in the truths and traditions of Catholicism.

The Church doesn’t ignore pain, fear, evil, and death. It fully serves our human needs, not only as spiritual creatures, but as physical ones as well. Each of the sacraments, for example, requires our bodily participation. We don’t just receive grace; we taste, touch, and feel it.

Protestant celebrations of Reformation Sunday each Halloween are a timely reminder that it’s simply not Catholic to ignore or deny the physical realities of our humanity, even when they are frightening and unpleasant. The Church certainly doesn’t. She meets us right where we are, neck-deep in human weakness, and gives us a lens through which we can face the evils that we fear.

Three years ago, my husband’s cousin and his wife lost their four-month-old baby daughter to a rare illness. My human heart and mind reeled at the prospect of making sense of such a painful loss. I had no words, but the Church had many. Beautiful ones, in fact.

The joyful Alleluias we sang and prayed at the funeral “Mass of the Angels” stood in stark contrast to the small church filled with grief and mourning. The Church did not ignore our pain; she met us where we were, right there in it, and shined on it the light of truth and salvation.

I’ve heard it said that one of Satan’s greatest triumphs comes when he succeeds in convincing us that he does not exist. A properly celebrated Halloween, with its scary costumes and images of death, places evil right before our eyes. We should not celebrate Satanism, of course, but the typical Halloween props of ghosts, witches, spiders, and skeletons are appropriate manifestations of the evils that we fear. There is something authentically Catholic about spooking ourselves with these and turning them into playthings.

William Peter Blatty, author of The Exorcist, knows this. He explained that his main purpose in writing his award-winning novel and screenplay was not to frighten his audiences or encourage occultism, but to share a message of faith:

I remember thinking, ‘Someday, somebody’s got to write about this, because if an investigation were to prove that possession is real, what a help it would be to the struggling faith of possibly millions, for if there were demons, I reasoned, then why not angels? Why not God?’

We must know the cold and darkness to recognize the light. When we face our fears, we can more fully appreciate Christ’s victory over sin and death. At Halloween, when we dance with goblins and spook with skeletons, we put our human fears in perspective.

We can laugh at weakness because we know  Christ, Who alone triumphs over the evils of sin and death. We know the weight of our words when we sing: “Death is swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:54-55)

Danielle Bean

By

Danielle Bean, a mother of eight, is Editorial Director of Faith & Family. She is also author of My Cup of Tea: Musings of a Catholic Mom (Pauline 2005) and Mom to Mom, Day to Day: Advice and Support for Catholic Living (Pauline 2007). Her blog is a source of inspiration, encouragement, and support for Catholic women of all ages and life stages.

  • http://www.dariasockey.blogspot.com Daria Sockey

    Amen to this! Also–the scary costumes and props of Halloween help us not only to “face” fear, death, and evil, but to also laugh at it. Was it Lewis, or some saint, who said that the devil hates to be laughed at.

  • http://bright-n-beautiful.blogspot.com Kim

    I agree, but I still can’t bring myself to buy or look at that stuff. Surely there is something Catholic about being repulsed by ugliness.

  • Charlotte

    Danielle, do you really believe those of us who don’t celebrate a secular Halloween as zombies and pop stars and cartoon characters are sheltering our children too much from the realities of death and fear? Have you seen a St. Sebastian costume complete with protruding bloody arrows? I saw a St. Joan of Arc once who was wearing a costume made out of a fiery metallic material that looked like the flames that burned her alive and a St. Cecilia with incredibly realistic gashes about her neck. If your kids want blood and death and fear, it can certainly be found celebrating the eve (or vigil) of All Hallows. (The same reason a vigil Mass fulfills a Holy Day’s obligation is why we can start celebrating All Saints the night before. It’s not like it’s a separate feast day or anything). Sure, it’s harder and typically seen as not as cool by both secularists and Catholics alike. It sometimes takes more work and creativity than just picking up a value pack of vampire teeth, but we think it’s worth it, especially for those of us who’s children are very sensitive to scary things and suffer from nightmares just by walking through Party City in October. I think it might have been the life sized decapitated man who was holding his own bug infested head and a blood drenched knife. I won’t even get into the gangsta pimps and ho’s costumes that horrified my daughter. But I guess we are just raising sissy children (who fence, golf and play chess). At least that’s what’s intimated by all the people contorting themselves to try to justify celebrating what is nothing but a fun-for-some secular tradition that needs no spiritual justification. Dress up, have fun, enjoy your candy…I have fond memories of doing the same as a child. If my kids had an interest, we might join you, although I still wouldn’t claim that dressing up an anime character or a punk rocker is putting my human fears or theirs in perspective. (Other than the fear that they might want to be a punk rocker someday and wind up living in my basement. Wait, we don’t have basements in Texas, whew!) But please don’t insinuate that I’m making my children miss out on a necessity of faith formation by having an All Hallows Eve party instead of trick or treating. Or that I’m raising them as Protestants as your title suggests. I thought you were dedicated to alleviating mommy guilt, not adding to it. Do what works best for your own family, right?

  • Erin

    Danielle,

    I honestly am surprised by the tone of your article and the implications it makes. Never have I encountered a Catholic family (ourselves included) who tries to hide the reality of sin from our children by failing to permit dressing up as a vampire, witch or the like. They know the devil is real and that is why we enjoy so much our celebrations of All Saints’ because it is the Church Triumphant who triumped over evil, not ignored it.

    “There is something authentically Catholic about spooking ourselves with these and turning them into playthings.” You speak about a “properly celebrated Halloween”, but I really don’t understand where you are coming from or how this is a celebration of authentic Catholic culture.

    I’m with Charlotte when I say that my children are repulsed and terrified by the displays of gore and “scary costumes and images of death”. We trick or treat and don’t object to fun costumes, but honestly, let’s face it: Halloween has become one of the major commercial “holidays” of the year and it is the pressure from the folks out there selling their economy-sized packages of vampire teeth who give us a sense of needing to celebrate Halloween properly as you say.

    Where do you find in Church teaching the need for this? I honestly am wondering?

  • Danielle Bean

    Whoa, ladies. If you are looking for an annual “Halloween fight,” you will have to look elsewhere. We don’t disagree. I am not advocating that anyone dress up as pop stars or expose their children to gruesome imagery. When I referred to a “properly celebrated Halloween” I meant precisely that we should avoid grotesque or satanic costumes and displays. Halloween certainly can be improperly celebrated.

    I am merely defending the “spooky” aspects of Halloween (details of this will vary, depending on what each family deems appropriate) as part of an authentic Catholic experience on the night before All Saints Day.

    Sounds like your All Hallows Eve party, Charlotte, is just the kind of thing I’m talking about. And, by the way, my kids play golf and chess, so I am not at all sure what you are suggesting about sissies.

    PS: As a writer and an editor, it never fails to disturb me when people make assumptions about authors’ intentions based on an article’s headline. Headlines are loaded because they are written for the purpose of gaining attention with few words. Sometimes writers write their own headlines, but usually they don’t. In this case, I did not.

  • Bill

    The following was performed last year at a Catholic bookstore about the sacramentality of Halloween by college students and seminarians. Heaven forbid children begin to think of sanctity as a make-believe, that holiness is just a mask we wear, a game of pretend or dress-up, and hence something totally unrelated to REAL human life. That would be a real diabolic masquerade, no?

    http://dl.dropbox.com/u/13283822/Coffee%20House%20-%20Halloween.MP4

    Enjoy God in the dark and scary, like life sometimes is, and HOORAY for this article. Thank you Danielle for being truly C/catholic in your piece. Happy Hallowe’en!

  • Anna

    Excellent article. It’s always refreshing to read a balanced, Catholic viewpoint on this contentious issue.

  • Matt

    Charlotte beat me to my main point, although I think she read some stuff into your piece that wasn’t there.

    There’s plenty of stuff thematically appropriate for All Saints to delight even the most gory-minded adolescent. :)

    Happy Halloween, and may the blessings of the saints (especially, tonight, the ones who had really gruesome martyrdom experiences :) ) be upon you and yours.

  • Charlotte

    1. Not looking for a fight at all. That’s why I tried to inject some light humor into my comment but I guess tone is hard to read and that must go for your post as well since I wasn’t the only one who misinterpreted it. But a sentence like “A properly celebrated Halloween, with its scary costumes and images of death…”indicates there is a right and proper way to celebrate Halloween and those of us who choose to celebrate differently are in the wrong.

    2. The sissy comment was because you mentioned football and here in Texas if your boys don’t play football, they must be “momma’s boys”. I guess I was confused by what “my feminine impulses to “mommify” Halloween” meant and what that had to do with football and chess. Since you are using a made up term that you haven’t defined, you have to expect that people are going to interpret it differently. To me it sounded like a synonym for “sissify”. Now, I don’t believe that golfers and chess players are inferior to team sport players but there are so many around here that do. If that’s not a part of your local culture, then your boys should consider themselves lucky.

    3. If I read anything into your post (that was not colored by local culture), then I apologize. It’s possible that since this type of post is written every year by a Catholic blogger somewhere, I’ve unintentionally jumbled them up.

    4. Having no experience with writing, editing or headlines I had no idea that an author wasn’t always the author of their own headlines. I learned something new today.

    5. What I think I am really reacting to is what seems like an annual need for people to justify and baptize what is essentially a harmless, secular tradition that some people enjoy and some people don’t. It’s like turkey on Thanksgiving or fireworks on the Fourth of July. If it’s fun for your family, have a blast and if it’s not, you aren’t really missing out on anything special.

  • Katherine

    Quote”But we cheat ourselves when we skip over the scary and run straight to the glory. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating All Saints Day, of course, but evil, fear, and death are real, and Holy Mother Church doesn’t “mommify” any of it.”

    Yes, I agree that evil, fear and death are very real and no The Church does not mommify it, but Halloween, is seen by many in our society at large as a time to celebrate evil under the guise of harmless fun. It is a night where many teach children to enjoy being a witch, or to pretend they are the devil, and to think it’s all just “harmless” or “cool”.

    I know that a good majority of parents who read this article, have fond memories of Halloweens past and are sure they suffered no lasting damage from their childhood Halloween fun. It’s all about the candy, right?

    But if we stand as followers of Christ, we might do well to ask ourselves what exactly the benefits are of tonight? The ones you state, of facing our fears, seem a bit far of a reach to this reader. There is not such a lack of evil in our world that we need to search out or plan a day to visit with it.

    I understand and believe that the Church teaches that in all things we should try to glorify Christ.

    Tonight will all the children who trick or treat, dressed up as representatives of evil, be doing so to glorify our Lord or to satisfy some self serving( the candy haul) and fulfilling(for the adults the childhood memories they wish to recreate) desire that really has absolutely nothing to do with Christ or The Church at all?

    If you see it as harmless fun, that’s fair enough, but I can assure you that most of us will be faced with enough real “cold and darkness” in our lifetime, that we don’t need to add a make believe component to it, for us to be able to see the light.

    • nkechi

      I completely agree with you. I am so appalled that a practising Christian and a Catholic will go as far as to say ” ….but that typical props of….” witches” are appropriate manifestations of evils that we fear”. Why did Danielle not include the devil in the list of scary elements that are typical halloween props? The statement itself is inconsistent because a ‘spider’ although scary is not evil. Danielle fails to distinguish between fear and evil. She is right when she says we should not celebrate Satan, but contradictsherself when she says props that depict witches are appropriate for the purposes of halloween. How ambiguous! The Bible says in

    • nkechi

      I completely agree with you. I am so appalled that a practising Christian and a Catholic will go as far as to say ” ….but that typical props of….” witches” are appropriate manifestations of evils that we fear”. Why did Danielle not include the devil in the list of scary elements that are typical halloween props? The statement itself is inconsistent because a ‘spider’ although scary is not evil. Danielle fails to distinguish between fear and evil. She is right when she says we should not celebrate Satan, but contradictsherself when she says props that depict witches are appropriate for the purposes of halloween. How ambiguous! The Bible says in Philippians 4:8 that we ought to think of whatever is true, honorable,just,pure, lovely,

    • nkechi

      I completely agree with you. I am so appalled that a practising Christian and a Catholic will go as far as to say ” ….but that typical props of….” witches” are appropriate manifestations of evils that we fear”. Why did Danielle not include the devil in the list of scary elements that are typical halloween props? The statement itself is inconsistent because a ‘spider’ although scary is not evil. Danielle fails to distinguish between fear and evil. She is right when she says we should not celebrate Satan, but contradictsherself when she says props that depict witches are appropriate for the purposes of halloween. How ambiguous! The Bible says in Philippians 4:8 that we ought to think of whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely,

    • Nkiru

      I completely agree with you. I am so appalled that a practising Christian and a Catholic will go as far as to say ” ….but that typical props of….” witches” are appropriate manifestations of evils that we fear”. Why did Danielle not include the devil in the list of scary elements that are typical halloween props? The statement itself is inconsistent because a ‘spider’ although scary is not evil. Danielle fails to distinguish between fear and evil. She is right when she says we should not celebrate Satan, but contradicts herself when she says props that depict witches are appropriate for the purposes of halloween. How ambiguous! The Bible says in Philippians 4:8 that we ought to think of whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely,gracious…etc.

      How can you argue then that wearing the garment that represents a witch for a day is appropriate for little children who are so vulnerable and can easily identify these things as good and pure things. Why would you want your child to go around as a devil for the day, what kind of appropriate manifestation is that? What is the moral behind it, will other kids learn anything good from seeing their friend dressed as Satan or a witch? Aren’t we rather exciting those intrinsic fears that we ascribe to these things but at the same time celebrating these evils by the thrill the mood of halloween brings along with it? – like the scary rides at the fair grounds which in one vein is scary but in another vein brings some thrill (excitement) while on the ride.

      And I know there are folks who will compare it to playing the part of the Devil in a setting like a stage play. It’s not the same, usually stage plays of that nature (in Church) have a moral to the story. Unless you little one has a red horn suit and then yields a Bible to convince the neighborhood about ‘Gods truths, I again cannot see how dressing up like the devil, and parading around the neighborhood, trying to emulate the ways the devil may be perceived so as to frighten others is not the same as celebrating the devil and what he stands for.

      When Paul said in Col 3:1-3 that we should set our minds on things above he wanted the Christians to be focused more on God because that is who we are – children of God. In Romans 16: 19 -20, he said “be wise as to what is good and simple as to what is evil” other translations say “innocent to what is evil” in otherwords, stay away from evil displays, thoughts, ideas, etc.

      If you ask me, you make the devil even happier when he is your theme for halloween, you know what happens Danielle? That’s exactly how he makes you think he is not real and does not exist. When you make evil a part and an aspect of what thrills you on halloween, when you write an article like this telling people that playing the part of the devil/being the devil for a day is an appropriate manifestation of our fears and so we ought not take that ‘fun’ out of halloween.

      I’ll also add this, I am appalled at my parish St. Cyril of Alexandria Catholic Church, Houston TX, for putting on the front page of the website, this article with a picture of kids dressed as witches with smiles on their faces.

      In the final analysis, Danielle ask yourself this question… what will Jesus do? If you can see your Lord dressed as the devil so as to give you halloween day thrills and manifest to you what you are scared of ( which really as a Christian in your salvation, you ought to fear God and have faith and by Gods grace NOT walk in fear) then I hold my hands up.

    • http://www.communionantiphons.org Andy

      But if we stand as followers of Christ, we might do well to ask ourselves what exactly the benefits are of tonight?

      Reflexively, I’d say fun and candy. Is it un-Christian to have fun?

      The ones you state, of facing our fears, seem a bit far of a reach to this reader. There is not such a lack of evil in our world that we need to search out or plan a day to visit with it.

      Visit it, engage in it, or mock it? In my view, that’s the true spirit of Halloween: to look these evil things in the eye and mock them relentlessly, since we have already triumphed through Christ.

  • KaleJ

    Way to tell it Danielle. And as a fellow parent of lots of boys, it is easy to want to control them too much, to control every setting and hopefully avoid injuries… But as adult “boy”, we need to realize as parents we won’t prevent every injury, or every sin, or every doubt. We have to prepare them for the world as best as we can.

    So the ongoing battle between over-sheltering and over-exposing continues. But thankfully we have the Catholic Church to help guide us. As a Knight, part of our motto is Remember Death. So that we are reminded of our mortality.

    It is okay to be Catholic and live it. Thank you for sharing Danielle.

  • Sarto

    Great insight into our Catholic tradition. And, of course, this glimpse of evil and death is followed immediately by the Feast of all Saints.

  • http://www.learkentfool.com Suzanne

    I heartily agree with Charlotte and Katherine. It seems odd to me to accuse other Catholics of “mommification” simply because their families don’t “do” Halloween or scary costumes. We did Halloween when I was a kid. It didn’t help me overcome fear of scary things — it reinforced it. All Saints Day celebrations give us a reason to overcome fearful things in life and death.

  • http://www.clevelandhomeschooler.com Dori

    I enjoyed reading your perspective on a “holiday” that many Catholics find conflict with. There often seems to be this idea that you celebrate All Saints Day OR Halloween and we do a little of both in our family. My kids are still young, but dressing up for Halloween doesn’t necessarily mean being “representatives of evil” – this year they were Indiana Jones, a Firefighter and a pumpkin. I appreciate your points about how the “spooky” elements of Halloween can be embraced as a part of our Catholic faith.

  • Monica

    The idea that dressing as a witch or a goblin on Halloween somehow glorifies evil is as silly as the idea that dressing as a saint on All Saint’s day (or Halloween, for that matter) somehow glorifies God. Dressing up is not a pious act, nor evil-doing. Our faith is deeper than that, right????

  • John Zmirak

    I can’t speak for all boys (just the normal ones), but if my MOTHER had tried to make sure that everything I ever did was intended “to glorify Christ,” I am certain that I would have ended up a rabid atheist.

    Thank God she was too busy with parish-sponsored bingo and high stakes poker to be much of a nuisance. I think I’m beginning to see now the pastoral value of those activities… they gave the boys a CHANCE.

    • Rebecca

      God bless you John Zmirak.

  • Michael PS

    I know a place in the Western Isles of Scotland, where corn dollies are still, occasionally, hung from trees, usually near a spring or pool. I suspect, too, that the saucers of milk they put out at night are not always for the cat.

    On a winter’s evening, one can still hear old tales told in village pubs of the fairies or “Little People”; tales of bewitchings, changelings and murrain in the flocks. And I have heard such tales interrupted, by those who consider any mention of “na Sithein” as unchancy.

    On Hallowe’en, Hallow fires are still lit and“samhnag” or lighted lanterns, often hollowed-out neeps (turnips) put in windows and over the doors of byres and granaries.

  • Rebecca

    You know, I saw footage on the BBC of a Corpus Christi celebration in Venezuela. People dressed up as demons and ran around causing havoc, until they came to the Cathedral, where the bishop stood holding a monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament. The demons screamed and fled in terror. Just a thought.

  • http://www.learkentfool.com Suzanne

    Rebecca – I think there’s a difference in using “devils” as a catechetical prop as you described and dressing up as devils “for fun” or to somehow “overcome our fears of them.”

    John Zmirak – what a condescending way to try to make a point. The only people who find it amusing are the ones who already agree with you.

    • Rebecca

      Of course there’s a good way to use depictions of demons and a bad way to use them. The question is “How are they being used?”

      As for “overcoming fear of demons” perhaps you should read “A Story of A Soul” by St. Therese, and pay close attention to the dream that she had about demons as a child.

      I agree that it’s wrong to celebrate demons as if they were somehow good. That is out of line.

    • Rebecca

      Oh, how do you feel about decorating a house with images of
      1 Frankenstein
      2 Dracula
      3Warewolves
      4 Skeletons?

      • Rebecca

        To this list I’m going to add
        5 Bats
        6 Spiders
        7 Black Cats

    • John Zmirak

      I wasn’t trying to make a point. I was speaking the simple truth. Go ahead, s-mother your sons. See what happens. No skin off my nose. I won’t have to answer for their apostasies.
      Cheers!

  • Jennifer

    I’m sorry, Danielle, but this is absolutely ridiculous.

    Our beautiful, Holy Mother Church, does not encourage or better yet, LEAD us to don VAMPIRE TEETH, FAKE BLOOD, MONSTER MASKS, etc. Our Faith urges us to every day consider the four last things: death, judgment, Heaven, Hell. It’s best to do that on our knees, not in a vampire costume.

    Look around at the houses and the stores at this time of year. Tell me what is holy, pure, just about the demons, witches, vampires and monsters that you see…

    God Bless,
    JENNIFER
    White Oak, PA
    mom to 8

    • http://www.communionantiphons.org Andy

      Our Faith urges us to every day consider the four last things: death, judgment, Heaven, Hell. It’s best to do that on our knees, not in a vampire costume.

      You don’t get invited to many parties, do you?

  • Mary

    Wow. I, too, am surprised at the tone of this article and the suggestion that those who do not encourage the secular celebration of Halloween are ‘mommifying’ our boys (whatever that means…perhaps God gave little boys moms for a reason…). So much more to say but others have touched on it already. Sad that Danielle has written a piece that was so ugly and offensive in tone. I normally enjoy her work so much. And sad that many of the comments have also joined in.

    • John Zmirak

      Dear God almighty! On what PLANET does this kind of manipulative, passive-aggressive rhetoric actually WORK? Really, I can’t accept the idea that most women find this sort of thing persuasive. My favorite female saints–Teresa of Avila, Joan of Arc, Hildegard of Bingen–if told that an intellectual argument had made someone “sad” would have done what Jimmy Cagney did in one of the greatest gangster movies, and rubbed a grapefruit in the offender’s face.

      Anyone who henceforth says that he or she found a piece at Crisis “wounding,” “insensitive,” “hurtful,” or any such thing will be banned without further notice. Go sell “crazy” somewhere else. We’re all stocked up here.

      • NYa

        I’ll have what he’s having.

  • Clare

    With respect to Danielle Bean, John Zmirak (I read his Halloween piece last year) and commentors here, I, too, don’t understand this whole elaborate theology created to justify dressing up in scary costumes and begging for candy.

    It can be a theology lesson, I suppose, for kids old enough and already trained to think Catholic (such as Danielle’s son who made the connection between the skull and St. Francis), but the majority of kids aren’t going to connect Halloween with purgatory (Dr. Zmirak’s piece last year) or with thinking of evil as well…bad. Kids are drawn to what they view as powerful, such as witches, demons, and vampires. God is rarely portrayed as stronger than these. In occult T.V. shows which are on the rise, God isn’t even mentioned. I want my kids to know who has the real power–and it ain’t the demons, vampires, and witches.

    The Christian life is bloody and brutal (we have more martyrs now than we ever have!) and we do battle the world, the flesh, and the devil everyday. This is a real war! So I don’t understand why the justification for dressing up as demons, witches, and vampires? As others here have mentioned, why not dress up as Saints who did live heroically while encountering a gruesome, bloody death? Why not have skulls on the doorstep with signs that read, “You too are going to die.” This–not the average vampire–is our Faith.

    • Rebecca

      Actually, if you read Bram Stoker’s Dracula, it is quite clear that Dracula is repelled by Christian images and sacramentals. When Johnathan Harker makes his way to Castle Dracula, a Transylvanian peasant woman gives him a rosary to ward off Dracula. The vampires in the story are repelled by holy water, and Van Helsing’s most powerful weapon against Dracuala is the Eucharist. (Indeed, Dracuala in Bram Stoker’s novel can be read as an anti-Christ, who is ultimately defeated by the Christian knights.) This makes its way into Bela Lugosi’s Dracula in 1931, when Dracula flees at the sight of a crucifix. Lucy, who has been bitten by Dracula, is similarly repulsed by it. (That being said, Bram Stoker was not a Catholic, and it does show in the novel as well.)

      Now, none of this makes its way into Twilight. But it is a part of the original conception of Dracula.

      BTW, I had a similar idea as the skulls with the sign saying “You will die one day.” If I ever own a house, I plan to put fake tombstones all over the front lawn, and by the door, I hope to put a tombstone saying “You November 1st,” implying that the person looking at the tombstone will die the next day.

  • Cecilia

    I must say that while I often agree with Danielle, this time I do not. Halloween often involves evil things as decorations or costumes. This doesn’t seem likely to impress the realities of evil upon us or upon children. Children have ‘fun’ dressing up as dracula or a witch or perhaps decorating with skeletons, tombstones etc. but I’d imagine you’d be hard pressed to find one of them learning from it. Danielle says it’s a mistake to race to All Saints Day with no mention of Halloween (and the ‘lessons’ it’s celebration can teach). But the Church (at least not here in America) doesn’t celebrate All Hallows Eve- we have All Saints Day and then All Souls Day. Wouldn’t a trip to the graveyard to pray at tombstones on All Souls Day teach more about mortality than concentrating on skeletons, skulls, and vampires? I don’t think there’s something inherently wrong with letting children dress up and trick or treat BUT to say that skipping it is to ignore the notion of sin, evil and death sounds a bit off How many children gain any lesson from Halloween? They have ‘fun’ but fun which involves scary images and lots of unhealthy candy sounds like fun my children can do without.

  • Clare

    Yes, I thought of Dracula and how vampires are killed with silver bullets (conceptualized from Judas’s taking of the 30 pieces of silver) but how many kids (adults too!) are thinking of this when slipping on that costume? I don’t know…maybe have a dead bloody vampire in the front yard with a wood cross sticking out of his chest (which is what the wood stakes are supposed to represent)? I love your idea of turning the front yard into a graveyard with a tomb enscription reading “You.” Good thinking, Rebecca!

    • Rebecca

      Vampires are not killed by silver bullets, warewolves are. (Good thinking about Judas, never thought about it that way!) I don’t know how many people think about how to defeat vampires, but you could be onto something with the stuffed vampire with the stake through his heart. The stake could even take the form of a cross, just as European style swords are always shaped like crosses.
      If I was married and had children, and my husband dressed up as a vampire, I would give the kids crucifixes and have them chase him around the house while he ran away screaming in terror. If nothing else, I would find that somewhat entertaining. But I wouldn’t lecture the kids afterwards. Young children (kindergarten) learn primarily through play, not lectures.

      • Rebecca

        I should clarify that I’m thinking of kindergartners in the vampire example, since I think 5 year olds would enjoy chasing dad around the house and seeing him be scared of them. I would NEVER do that with teenagers or the like.

  • Thomas

    What I don’t understand is how the current practices of Halloween can be considered Catholic in any specific sense. Danielle’s point about death and evil being real is well-taken, but that doesn’t make Halloween a Catholic event (despite the etymology of the name).

    It seems that the crude celebration by superstitious laity in the Middle Ages, in a few countries (Ireland, Scotland, England), of the vigil of All Saints–masking their faces so they would not be recognized by roaming souls of the dead who can’t get into Purgatory or are suffering it on earth, or whatever the heterodox superstition–is how the obscene theatrics of present day celebrations got started.

    And I don’t think “trick or treating” was even mentioned in the USA until the 1930s. Check the wikipedia article on Halloween, if you trust it.

    Of course death and evil are inescapable Catholic topics. And what kind of a Gothic Cathedral would lack the grotesque gargoyle? Those are Catholic, and so are All Saints Day and All Souls Day, and the occasional statue of a devil or the dragon slayed by St. George, etc., but Halloween is only Catholic by pretense.

    Check how many Catholic cultures around the world “do Halloween.” You won’t find many. The masquerades and the tricks and treats and the houses of horror and the vampires and the ugliness seem anything but Catholic to me. I’m not suggesting we avoid the fun–and I think it’s great fun–just don’t pretend it’s particularly Catholic fun.

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