All Hallows Eve or Halloween?

gargoyle

Halloween poses a serious concern to Catholic families nowadays. Besides various occult inspirations, many Catholics are uneasy with Halloween’s ostentatious glorification of ugliness and evil. Also distressing are the prevalent trends of psychosis, vulgarity, and violence.

What conscientious parent would not be wary?

Even with such adversity, it is still possible to align Halloween with the inheritance of Christian culture. Once Catholics consider—perhaps in desperation of the times—what Halloween can be, its restoration is arguably a duty.

Though many elements of Halloween have branched into unholy and unhealthy regions, its root sleeps in sacred ground. Both the feast and the vigil of All Saints Day have been observed since the early eighth century, instituted by Pope Gregory III; and Pope Gregory IV applied them to the Universal Church. Families of faith frequently attempt to awaken this hallowed origin by instructing children to pray for the Holy Souls in purgatory and to invoke the patronage of the Holy Saints in heaven. Such activities are, without doubt, laudable as they encourage a traditional awareness and attitude by turning the minds and hearts of children toward eternal things. Moreover, as a compromise with the cultural demands of celebrating Halloween, All Saints Day costume parties have become quite fashionable—if not the only respectable thing to do.

While these lighthearted vigils of the feast are unobjectionable in themselves, such celebrations modify in principle the vision of the Church’s liturgical observations and theological mores leading up to and flowing from Halloween.

After the feast of Pentecost, the liturgical calendar enters into the period of the Church on earth, moving towards the consummation of all things in Christ. Preceding the culminating celebration of Christ the King comes the festival of All Hallows Eve and the feasts of All Saints and All Souls. It is in this time of gathering, of harvest, that the Church places “Hallowe’en” in the drama of human salvation. Halloween offers a fitting occasion for the beginning of the Church Militant’s liturgy of the faithful departed, representing man’s mortality and his longing for eternal life.

The value of any Christian tradition lies in its pedagogical influence. The implication of Halloween is that death precedes the possibility of saintly glory and the redemptive suffering of purgatory. Of course death is the result of sin, but Halloween can portray it as the precursor to new life by its liturgical placement. Furthermore, the power of grace is only known in comparison to evil; and conversely the horror of evil is only grasped in light of what is good, true, and beautiful. In this way, Halloween ghouls can recall the darkness of error as well as mankind’s fulfillment in Christ.

Thus, Halloween can depict a vital element in the re-enactment of salvation history. Although it is not an official holy day, as it evokes fallen nature and fallen creation, it can be informed by the liturgical rhythms of man’s deliverance from the demonic. Linked to All Saints and All Souls, Halloween imagery presents an integral illustration of the human passage and the consequence of Christ. Without death, there would be no saints in heaven or souls in purgatory. Without Christ, man would have no right to ridicule the devil. Halloween offers a comic, cultural expression of the truths that comprise man’s participation in Christ’s Resurrection.

Halloween pageantry proclaims that death is stripped of his sting since the dominion of hell has been overthrown. The victory of the Resurrection and the glory of the saints come forth from death and the destruction of the power of sin. Halloween celebrates Christ’s triumph through parody—or exultant mockery—subjecting the symbols of the grave to satirical derision. Witches, devils, ghouls, skeletons, and such spooks become caricatures of an impotent evil. Followers of Christ are conquerors, and no longer slaves, of these elemental creatures. There is no fear in them, which Halloween rejoices in.

The pantomime of saints, on the other hand, diminishes this dramatic representation of the mystery of redemption from death to new life. Admittedly, no one can argue against honoring the saints, whose feast comes the next day. Nevertheless, such practices underline an unfortunate lack of understanding as to what Halloween masquerades can liturgically signify: the victory over death and the subservience of evil. Only a partial account of salvation exists without the garish jesters of Halloween.

Such symbolism is not a glorification of evil, but an acknowledgment of it. Evil should be assigned a similar role through Halloween as it has in gothic cathedrals—the architectural icons of order and harmony in creation, where even the devil has his place. Images of evil are man’s to ridicule as dethroned. Saints and angels cannot teach the theological truth of the dragon and the gargoyle. Halloween, if true to this purpose, debases the macabre by playful ritual. The eradication of ghosts and goblins from Halloween does not perforce safeguard the spiritual and the holy. Though often dismissed as uncouth, fiends and phantoms are emblems of spiritual warfare—and of the victory already won in Christ. Without such reminders, communities may be lulled to sleep, allowing the reality of evil to become more powerful in the neglectful silence.

The “baptism” of pagan or even neutral festivals is a duty of Christian culture: to orient the objectives and perspectives of problematic social events towards the Faith, and claim another celebration for Christ on earth. Since the festivities of Halloween are so established, it behooves Catholics to defend their children and their Faith from corruption by replacing base freakishness with the flair of the spiritual. But there is no need to Christianize what is already Christian. The Halloween challenge lies in drawing the emphasis away from sheer terror, and towards mystery, merriment, and the miraculous. Believers must not fear death, whose faith resists those influences that declare death ultimately fearful.

Catholic parents should, in this spirit, combat the secular and satanic plagues that currently infect the traditions of All Hallows Eve, choosing between the trick and the treat. Let Halloween retain its howling ghosts, but re-align and re-order its purpose and iconography so that it may become a stepping-stone for children to grow in familiarity with the Holy Ghost.

Sean Fitzpatrick

By

Sean Fitzpatrick is a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College and the Headmaster of Gregory the Great Academy. He lives in Scranton, PA with his wife and family of four.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    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 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. There is no dressing-up, beasts are shut in and few people venture out of doors

    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.

    Strange that they should survive, for the Reformers detested such folk customs

    • slainte

      The Reformers were not keen on many things Celtic/Gaelic…Bealtaine (and its dancing around the Maypoles), Samhain, Imbolc, Lughnasadh.
      Catholicism though, and its incorporation of pagan thought (Aristotle through Aquinas), and its christianizing conquest of the old pagan ways gave particular offense.
      Vive la difference.

      • John O’Neill

        In the ancient Celtic year Samhain was celebrated as the end of the old year and the beginning of the new year. It was believed at that time that the eve before Samhain an opening between the land of the living and the land of the dead occurred. Many pagans saw this as a time to remember the dead members of their families. The Church as the usual custom decided to Christianize this celebration and honor All the Saints and on the subsequent day All the Souls who had predeceased us. Many local superstitions grew up around the fact that the ghosts or souls of the dead were walking about that night and then various customs developed. The current holiday of Halloween with gory characters and semi pornographic females running around yelling look at me , look at me is purely part and parcel of the American( it is all about me) culture. Let us stick to honor all the saints and the souls in purgatory and avoid the American pagan culture all together. De Americanis non dubitandum est.

        • slainte

          On Hallow-Mass Eve, ere yon boune ye to rest,
          Ever beware that your couch be bless’d;
          Sign it with cross, and sain it with bead,
          Sing the Ave, and say the Creed.

          For on Hollow-Mass Eve the Night-Hag will ride,
          And all her nine-fold sweeping on by her side.
          Whether the wind sing lowly or loud,
          Sailing through moonshine or swath’d in the cloud.

          The Lady she sate in St. Swithin’s Chair,
          The dew of the night has damped her hair:
          Her cheek was pale, but resolved and high
          Was the word of her lip and the glance of her eye.

          She mutter’d the spell of Swithin bold,
          When his naked foot traced the midnight wold,
          When he stopp’d the Hag as she rode the night,
          And bade her descend, and her promise plight.

          He that dare sit on St. Swithin’s Chair,
          When the Night-Hag wings the troubled air,
          Questions three, when he speaks the spell,
          He may ask, and she must tell.

          The Baron has been with King Robert his liege,
          These three long years in battle and siege;
          News are there none of his weal or his woe,
          And fain the Lady his fate would know.

          She shudders and stops as the charm she speaks;
          Is it the moody owl that shrieks?
          Or is that sound, betwixt laughter and scream,
          The voice of the Demon who haunts the stream?

          The moan of the wind sunk silent and low,
          And the roaring torrent had ceased to flow;
          The calm was more dreadful than raging storm,
          When the cold grey mist brought the ghastly form!

          “St. Swithin’s Chair” by Walter Scott

        • Arizona Mike

          Most of that is Victorian-era supposition that few anthropologists believe anymore. Victorian-era Protestants had a vested interest in promoting the idea that all Catholic holidays had an origin in pagan rites.

          What we actually know about Samhain derives exclusively from texts written by Catholic monks beginning about ten centuries after the Christian era began. There is no evidence that the Celts considered it the beginning of their new year, or as a liminal period between the living and the dead, That is just Victorian-era supposition by the likes of folklorists like Sir Edmund Frazer, whose suppositions aren’t taken seriously much by scholars these days. There is no primary textual evidence that the Celts considered it a festival revolving around the dead, nor is our knowledge of it that “ancient” – our knowledge revolves exclusively around medieval Celtic practices, not those of the ancient world.

          What is actually known about Samhain is that:
          - Samhain was not a Celtic god of the dead, it was a name for a month, i.e. November.
          - It was a time when cattle were moved between highlands and lowlands by the Celts, and had little or nothing to do with a harvest festival.
          - It was a logical time for Celtic tribes to meet, slaughter cattle, and conduct business, and was likely a secular commercial /political gathering – there is no evidence it had any religious significance, although religious events may have occurred. Interactions between Celtic gods and men are described as happening at Samhain in Celtic legends because that’s when the tribes and clans met on the plains to slaughter and eat cattle and work out disputes, Many Arthurian legends happen at Christmas and Pentecost because that’s when lords and ladies were all together.
          - Many of the customs we associate with American Hallowe’en actually derive from folkloric aspects of Christmas, which tended to be more like Carnival among the lower classes of Europe and involved going from house to to house to beg/demand food, pranks and similar mischief, and so forth. The practice of costuming oneself and going from house to house is associated with the Christmas practice of mumming, which eventually migrated to the Hallowe’en season, not Samhain.

          The earliest evidence we have associating October 31 / November 1 with a holiday honoring the dead is not pagan, but Catholic.

          • Nick

            I’m very intrigued by your comments and would like to know more, do you have a source book or books from which you have come to know of this? Thanks : )

            • Arizona Mike

              Nick, good sources are Ronald Hutton’s “Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain.” Oxford, Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-288045-4, and also Hutton’s “The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles: Their Nature and Legacy.” Oxford, Blackwell ISBN 0-631-18946-7. On the Christmas festivities that have come to be associated with Hallowe’en, see Stephen Nissnebaum’s “The Battle for Christmas,” New York, Venture ISBN 978-0679740384.

              • Nick

                great, thanks Mike!

    • Ford Oxaal

      Fantastic. This is a great intro to a captivating story. Please continue — tell us more — a sort of Scottish Washington Irving tale.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        Ah! Such stories need to be heard by the blue light of peat fire, with a glass of Lagavulin at your elbow

  • Steven

    Thank you for that excellent meditation on All Hallows Eve Mr. Fitzpatrick!
    It is the devil’s greatest trick to be disbelieved in today. You have drawn our attention to our duty to re-sanctify this important day. We try to ignore death like we have been ignoring Satan and the consequence is living the culture of death while both Satan and death mock us-

    • Ford Oxaal

      Well said. Death is antiseptic and clean in our modern world. War is by drone. Killing is performed by trained “doctors”. The smell of rotting corpses is a distant memory too horrible to pass down to the next generation. Nor do we make much attempt as a culture to learn from the horrors — that might scare the children. The “Barney Mass” is a reflection of this culture in the Catholic Church. Luckily we have the Hail Mary which recites the two most important aspects of our life on Earth: “now, and at the hour of our death”.

      • STF

        …and the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel.

        “Defend us in battle…”

        We should do all in our power to prevent becoming the victims of Screwtapian strategies – and Halloween is at least one way of doing so with joy rather than with fear and trembling.

    • STF

      Christian culture alone can reverse this tide of death. Halloween is as good a place to start as any, especially since it is beloved of children. Halloween observances should serve as expressions of the inextricable desires and aspirations of man as man. Therefore, Halloween ought to be guided by the true religion, the complete revelation of God, and help to bring man, according to his natural and supernatural powers, to fulfillment and perfection.

      Moreover, on a basic cultural note, Halloween is perhaps the last remaining holiday in a time of social isolation where people actually interact with their neighbors.

  • publiusnj

    The title of this article presents a false choice. All Hallows’ Eve IS Halloween. It has been for centuries and that hasn’t changed just because the holiday has been perverted by our very commercial culture. If that were so, we would be distinguishing between Christmas and the Feast of the Nativity in the same way. That would be a bad mistake and truly a defeatist strategy. Indeed, by running away from OUR holidays and abandoning them just because they have been perverted, we surrender the Culture.
    I don’t see Halloween as very important in itself, but the interrelated Halloween, All Saints and All Souls (and the increasingly important Mexican cognate of the Day of the Dead) present an opportunity for the Church to point out that the entire cultural calendar on which American culture is based is a series of reflections on who we are and where we are going.
    As for Christmas, it is the most important day of the Civil Calendar (I know that Easter is more important liturgically) and one need only listen to Bloomberg Radio or CNBC to know of its centrality to the entire annual business cycle. Christmas is THE Bomb. We should never countenance any backing away from the truth that Christmas is when this country admits the centrality of Jesus Christ just because people try to hijack a feast for their own purposes. The entire cultural calendar is a gift of Holy Mother the Church.

    • http://romishgraffiti.wordpress.com/ Scott W.

      I not seeing an actual disagreement between you and Mr. Fitzpatrick’s article.

      • Ford Oxaal

        It would be hard to disagree with ten pounds of candy walking in the door.

        • http://romishgraffiti.wordpress.com/ Scott W.

          Ha! Nicely played.

  • poetcomic1

    There’s a popular Chick pamphlet on Halloween that you are in sync with. You know those little cartoon books such as ‘The Poisoned Cookie’ (which is the single most read piece of anti-Catholic literature in modern times). I’m being facetious, but I would hate to be in agreement with ANYTHING Jack Chick says.

    • Ford Oxaal

      I called those guys up on the phone one time and read the Epistle of Straw with one of their hypnotized drones — which is included their bible — and asked why they mocked a book of their own bible on a regular basis.

      • Adam__Baum

        Good grief man. Don’t keep us in suspense. What happened? Was there a “click’ or did they sound like some politician without his/her teleprompter?

        • Ford Oxaal

          No click — I was pretty jazzed up and was able to make a valiant effort to un-hypnotize the poor drone, building consensus, using only a modicum of reason, but I’m afraid the chick warlock mind freeze was too deep, and after a while, they had to beg off and return to their master puppeteer. Hopefully a little seed was planted. But a bit like the Code Pink folks — they come with a fair number of simplistic mantras.

          An aside speaking of Code Pink: I remember seeing Rich Lowery chatting with Code Pink automatons who had returned from a trip to Iraq claiming all is well and the women there were happy with the status quo — Lowery asked one of them “Really? Did you speak to any women who had had their tongue cut out?” Not that I am an advocate for “nation building” via carbonizing 25 miles of Iraqi troops.

          • Adam__Baum

            “chick warlock mind freeze”
            Along with the phrase “weapons grade drugs”, attributable to a poster in another thread whose moniker escapes me at the moment, these phrases tie for the best of the day, perhaps the month.

  • tamsin

    Evil should be assigned a similar role through Halloween as it has in gothic cathedrals—the architectural icons of order and harmony in creation, where even the devil has his place. Images of evil are man’s to ridicule as dethroned.

    Our parish could benefit from a gargoyle or two.

  • Ford Oxaal

    Ha ha — great stuff. We used to send our kids to a Catholic school (they now go to a school which is academically challenging and teaches Latin and Greek) which did the “come as a saint” party — which was great, but, I always felt something was missing. So we sent in our little ones as, for example, St. Adjutor with a bloody sword, or St. Olaf with a blood axe. The school made the children check their weapons at the door — those deadly implements made of aluminum foil and cardboard and red stuff. Thanks to your well-written piece, I feel somewhat redeemed. Of course, on one level, it’s all about the candy. The older kids turn into professional trick or treaters at an early age, and the younger ones are actually born as professional trick or treaters. They come home, and for the next 45 minutes, sit with masks tilted back at the counting table — like a bunch of bookies tallying the take. As syndicate boss, I get my cut too :)

  • Howard Kainz

    Halloween is not an “official holy day”? It’s the eve of All Saints day, which is a “holy day of obligation.”

    • Arizona Mike

      As the early Christians considered a day as beginning at sundown, due to their Jewish roots, All Saints Day began at sundown on October 31. What we consider Hallowe’en was part of All Saints Day. November 1 was considered a holy day and a fast day as early as St. Columban’s (540 – 615 A.D. “Regula Monachorum,” so it made sense for the early Church to consolidate all the regional celebrations of the martyrs (the Sunday after Pentecost by the Greeks, May 13 in Rome, Easter week in Syria) on a day that was considered the beginning of the winter by the early Church. St. Augustine, St. Benedict, and St. Isidore of Syracuse (560 to 636 A.D.) all considered the 1st day of November to be the first day of winter. St. Isidore based this on the witness of the Bible, Jeremiah 36:2-9.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        Arizona Mike

        St Benedict began winter on 14 September (A kalendas autem octobres usque caput quadragesimæ Rule c 48) Because of the Roman practice of counting down dates, 14 September is A.D. XVIII KAL. OCT that is “18 days before the Kalens of October.” St Benedict used “a kalendas Octobres (sic) as an ellipsis for “the day when we start reckoning from the Kalens of October” – at least, that is how the Rule has always been interpreted and corresponded with contemporary practice. The 14 September is also Holy Cross Day.

        • Arizona Mike

          Michael, the Fordham University text of the Benedictine Rule (http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/rul-benedict.asp) renders Rule 8 as:

          “8. Concerning the Divine Offices at Night. In the winter time, that is from the Calends of November until Easter, according to what is reasonable, they must rise at the eighth hour of the night, so that they rest a little more than half the night, and rise when they have already digested.”

          (From Migne, Patrologia Latina Vol. 66, col. 215ff, translated by Ernest F. Henderson, Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages, (London: George Bell and Sons, 1910)

          Any idea of why the divergent dates for the 1st day of winter in different texts of the Benedictine Rule?

          • Michael Paterson-Seymour

            Arizona Mike

            The received text of the rule has “A kalendas autem octobres” There are 348 hits for this in Google and none for “novembres.” This would appear to be a slip on Henderson’s part.

            Now, “the Kalens of October” would normally mean 1st October, but it has always been interpreted in the way I pointed out – as an ellipsis for “the day when we start reckoning from the Kalens of October”

            Apart from the manuscript evidence, in England, we have this reading adopted in the Regularis Concordia of St Dunstan (between 955 and 988) and the Monastic Constitutions of Lanfranc a century later, both designed to secure uniformity of observance in Benedictine houses.

            To this day, English judges wear robes lined an trimmed with fur from 14 September (Holy Cross Day) until 25 March (Lady Day) During the rest of the year, they are lined and trimmed with salmon-coloured silk, which suggests the practice existed outside monasteries.

            In Scotland, the same dates are often used to mark the opening and closing of the common grazings. In my part of the country, one sometimes finds 25 September and 6 April, ignoring the Calendar Act 1750, when 11 days were dropped from the calendar

            • Arizona Mike

              Interesting. There does seem to have been agreement among some monastic Christians for 1 November as the beginning of Winter. (This is tangential to the discussion of All Hallow’s Eve, though, as my point was that 1 November was considered as a holy day by the early Church as the beginning of the winter season and a fast day, so it made sense to consolidate several regional dates for celebrations of the martyrs to an earlier existing Christian tradition associated with the beginning of winter.)

              For instance, a work roughly contemporaneous with Benedict’s Rule, St Columban’s (540-615 AD) “Regula Monachorum”: Rule 7: “But concerning the synaxis, that is, the office of psalms and prayers in canonical manner, some distinctions must be drawn, since its observance has been variously bequeathed to our remembrance by different authorities. Thus, in accordance with the nature of man’s life and the succession of the seasons, the same will be variously suggested by myself also in writing. For it should not be stereotyped in view of the mutual changes of the seasons; for it is fitting that it be longer on the long nights and shorter on the short ones. Hence, in agreement with our predecessors, from the twenty-fourth of June, while the night increases, the office begins to grow gradually from twelve chants of the shortest measure on the night of the Sabbath or the Lord’s Day, up to the beginning of winter, that is, the first of November. Then they sing twenty-five antiphonal psalms [of twice the same number] which always follow third after two chanted, in such a way that within the two aforesaid nights they sing the entire total of the psalter, while they modify the remaining nights for the whole winter with twelve chants. At winter’s end, gradually each week throughout the spring, three psalms are always dropped, so that only twelve antiphons remain on the holy nights, that is, the thirty-six psalms of the daily winter office, but it is twenty-four throughout the whole spring and summer and up to the autumn equinox, that is, the twenty-fourth of September. Then the fashion of the synaxis is like that on the spring equinox, that is, the twenty-fifth of March, while by mutual changes it slowly grows and lessens.”

              The “Rule of Donatus” (of Luxeuil), a former monk of Columban who was founder of the Abbey at Saint Vincent, stated winter was from November 1 to March 25 and Summer is split into two halves: March 25th to June 24th (mid-summer day) and June 24th to November 1st.

  • patricia m.

    Well, when I lived in London there was a group linked to the catholic churches that was trying to change that stupid (IMHO) culture of evil called Halloween. They suggested that catholics light a candle in their windows during that night, and also that their kids dress as angels instead of demons. I thought it was a great campaign. Had no kids at the time but lighted a candle in my window.

  • patricia m.

    And let’s face it, please, this Halloween thing is totally protestant in its nature. No other country, specially the big catholic countries such as France, Portugal, Spain and Brazil have such a festivity. I’m Brazilian, we do celebrate November 1st and November 2nd (November 2nd is a holiday actually), but we don’t celebrate anything on the night of the 31st. Oh no, now we do celebrate because Americans export their strange festivities all around the globe. Lol.

    • patricia m.

      As Thanksgiving, totally Quaker, once only celebrated in America but quickly spreading around the globe as well.

    • Tracy

      It’s customs are mostly Irish-English-French in origin. Just because large parts of the Catholic world don’t celebrate it the way Americans do doesn’t mean other Catholics — including American Catholics — don’t.

      • Declan Kennedy

        Tracy,

        Growing up in Ireland in the fifties, we had very different traditions to the modern version. There was nothing like “trick or treat”. It was a family festival. Obviously Mass was the main part of it, but then in the evening we ate Barm Brack, a bread with fruit and things baked in it that told your fortune for the year ahead, presumably a relic of the pre-Christian religion. Then it was apple bobbing. Innocent days!

        • STF

          Even the current practice of trick-or-treating can convey a positive message. Once it was seen as a tribute to threatening power of darkness, to
          assuage their wrath and ward off wicked reprisal. Now, when the devil at the door
          cries “Trick-or-treat,” there is no fear of the pronounced threat. There is
          only amusement and delight at the ludicrous appearance of the ghastly figure. A
          treat is given, not as a tribute, but as a token of authority as a from a master to a servant.

          • Declan Kennedy

            A really nice point. As I have never experienced what you are talking about it is grand to have a different take on it. In my days it was a day to mock the devil.

            • STF

              An additional symbol worth mentioning in trick-or-treating is the involvement of sweets. Death and the images of darkness are associated with candy and joy instead of terror and danger. Death is rendered sweet by the Resurrection. “We look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.”

  • JP

    I think this is largely an American, or North American thing. In Central Europe (Bosnia, precisely) nothing like Halloween was celebrated….except by Canadian expats. Canadians do “celebrate” Halloween though, even though our history is more strongly Catholic than is that of the US.

    And PROPER, Catholic Thanksgiving is in October, too. :-)

  • Melody

    What you are saying would be true IF…

    1) … a busy mother of a large family actually had time to do both Halloween AND All Saints. Dude… I’m just surviving here. Pulling all nighters just to get one set of costumes done. And then there’s All Souls Day!! A triple whammy! I only have time and resources to provide one set of costumes over a two day period and All Saints’ Day wins. I’ve seen other families try to do both with awesome halloween costumes and really stupid saints outfits. Because there simply isn’t time. And Candy wins.
    Why not shift your ideas to All Souls’ Day? It’s definitely a “day of the dead,” no? The Church planned that pretty well. Do we need another?

    2) …Catholic families make the mistake of overly sanitizing the saints. The saints LIVED what you are talking about and we should pass the full truth on to our kids. There’s no reason why All Saints’ Day has to come off like a Barney episode.

    3) … you are not trying to argue for allowing our kids to depart our homes on Halloween dressed like evil things. Cuz’ that’s messed up. Who practices being evil? Evil is rampant and we have ample opportunities to practice. Death is real. God reigns. “Son, take off the serial killer mask, please.”

    4) … there was a good context for your idea within the secular American culture that celebrates Halloween. There isn’t. A family has to be pretty counter cultural to get these ideas across to the kids while house hopping for goodies. And that happens best within the beautiful back-to-back feasts of All Saints’ Day and All Souls Day. You have lovely ideas though. Just almost impossible to implement effectively without losing the message.

    • Paul McGuire

      There are a lot of Halloween options that are not inherently evil. One year I went as a monk complete with fake beard. Another year I went as a character from an Anime (a scientist in a lab coat), and another year a vampire (which arguably could be evil if they actually existed but tends to look more like you are a count in cheap looking fancy clothes). Other times my brother went as Thor (the marvel comic character).

      I’ve never understood the religious objections to Halloween and thankfully never had anyone finding evil intentions where they didn’t exist. Last time I checked nobody I knew ever went around doing satanic rituals or trying to talk to the spirits of the dead.

      I also can’t see anything more silly than dressing up as saints. Just go to church on All Saint’s day and be reverent. No need for costumes.

      • patricia m.

        Agree, that dressing up as saints in All Saints Day is another American (bad) idea. I’ve seen that nowhere else in the world. It looks pretty stupid to me.

      • patricia m.

        For me, dressing as a monk is kind of a mockery. I wouldn’t encourage that. The prostitutes of this world always like to dress as a nuns, have you noticed that? I don’t like it when they try to mock my religion.

        • Paul McGuire

          I agree that it could be a mockery if done wrong. Those “sexy nun” costumes certainly are mocking nuns. I tried to be as realistic as possible so as not to mock.

    • patricia m.

      Why not be counter cultural then and skip Halloween altogether? You certainly can buy them candies instead of them knocking on doors….

      • STF

        Where’s the fun in that?

        Remember that all things worth doing involve risk. Grab the devil by his horns!

        • patricia m.

          STF, this is only an American feast. There’s no such thing in any place else. The Church does celebrate All Saints and All Souls, but it has nothing to do with dressing a costume and asking for candies. I think it’s more important to make children recognize that although Halloween is certainly “fun”, it’s not something that we as Catholics should be celebrating. Let’s go to church Nov the 1st and Nov the 2nd, that’s what matters.

        • patricia m.

          As for Christmas, although it’s a lotta “fun” to get presents etc I intend to educate my children to not expect ANY present at all during Christmas. The focus should be totally different, the focus is on the birth of Jesus. They’ll get presents when they have their own birthday.

  • Tracy

    Check out this link about All Hallows’ Eve and why it should retain its scary nature: All Hallow’s Eve

  • Traditium

    Interesting stuff.

  • Yeshua Vargas

    Mr. Fitzpatrick I’m the father of six children. The oldest is eight. We don’t celebrate Halloween for the very reasons you wrote about on the very first paragraph of your article. I find myself intrigued and somewhat persuaded by your excellent article ,but I have some concerns. First, many bishops, including Pope Benedict XVI warn against celebrating it. And secondly, Although I understand your point, my experience has been that when people dress up (especially children) as something, they tend to act as what they represent and therefore it really ends up as a celebration or glorification of the macabre and not a parody of evil. I believe it becomes more an opportunity to act out and be mischievous and naughty and to find fun and pleasure in this behavior, and a lot less about re-aligning anything towards God. Also, I think we need to be careful not to forget that although we have ultimately triumphed over the power of evil and death through Christ, we are still (while we live) very easily seduced and ensnared by evil because of our own concupiscence and therefore we shouldn’t tempt ourselves unnecessarily. I understand that my concern probably doesn’t apply to adults (hopefully), but I think it does to children whether we educate them on the matter or not. I simply don’t know. It would be very easy for me to celebrate it, my children would certainly love it, but I’m simply unsure if it’s the right thing to do. Any advice, clarification and/or practical examples on why and how to properly celebrate Halloween are welcome and appreciated.

    • STF

      Mr. Vargas,

      Thank you for your thought-provoking comment. You raise some difficult points (as did Melody in a post below) that look the problem of Halloween straight in the face and see many practical problems given the extent to which our conventions have fallen. But, in my opinion, the worse the disease, the more we should strive for a cure. The powers of the world and the powers of hell know where the real battle-fronts are, and they take them very seriously.

      The principal feasts of the Church have taken considerable damage as far as their public appearance and significance.

      For instance, Easter, the greatest of our feasts, is about chocolate eggs. Christmas is about getting presents. Halloween is about devils. Valentine’s Day is about kissy-kissy encounter games. See the trend? All the things that the Church has deemed, and still deems, worthy of celebration, because they are intrinsically worthy of celebration, are the very things that the powers of darkness try to turn upside-down and make them all about something other than what they are really about. In fact, they have turned them into matters silly and specious. Instead of Easter commemorating the most significant event in human history, it is now about an insignificant bunny. Instead of Christmas commemorating the most selfless act imaginable, it is now about selfishness. Instead of All Hallows Eve commemorating the triumph of life over death, it is now about the triumph of death over life.

      Easter and Christmas are the most clear examples of this disturbing, backwards pattern. Halloween, I say, is in the very same category. The devil is a proud spirit and hates to be mocked. Halloween is the time when Christians are invited to mock him, as the gothic gargoyles do, for the devil is mockable; and such action is fitting given our participation in the living Body of Christ, where the battle is already won. (All we need do is participate actively and courageously in that grace which springs from Our Lord’s triumph over the powers of death.) Halloween, like Easter and Christmas, has become a perversion of what the Church originally intended and continually intends the day to be – a holy day – a celebration of the impotence of death and the devil, which has allowed for the crowning of saints in heaven.

      Any attempt or movement to glorify the powers of the devil and death on this day is a blatant attempt to mar what the Church herself has deemed worthy of observing. These practices, too, should be mocked; and certainly not given the victory. Would you ever stop celebrating the true meaning of Christmas or Easter just because the secular and the demonic had interfered with it? I should hope not! For that matter, why should any self-respecting Catholic stand idly by and let hell have any feast day that heaven has instituted or called her own?

      Halloween may be only a battle within a war, but it is manifestly under heavy attack by the demons, so that makes me think that it bears a message that is important for men to be familiar with. One that the devils would prefer to be left unsaid. I, for one, would like to see Halloween reclaimed by the good and for Catholics to re-order its iconography to express the joyful truth that Death is stripped of his sting and that the devil is rendered impotent by the Cross.

      That idea alone sounds worthy of a few sweets and playful costumes – even at the risk of some mischief – or even of some danger. Nothing worth doing is ever free of peril. As a father and a husband, you know all about that.

      But practically speaking, I wonder if the celebration and restoration of Halloween has to begin in homes, among family members. Perhaps slowly a more healthy approach to what stands as a macabre death-fest can impose itself. Begin in the home with your children. Make an altar with pictures on it of deceased family members. Decorate it with colorful skulls made out of paper and with marigolds. Read stories that are chilling but that have a theme of honoring the dead or of resurrection: Vassilissa and the Baba Yaga, Orpheus in the Underworld, the Irish myths of Nera and Jack o’ the Lantern, to name a few. Make costumes with your children of ghouls and ghosts explaining to them that their ugliness or fearsomeness should be clownish for the reasons we are here considering. Research a couple old traditions of celebrating Halloween (especially the Day of the Dead practices from Mexico) and incorporate them into your family time. Use dinner time to talk about these themes and to tell some ghost stories. The family table can be the best arena for education.

      I hope this has been helpful. I know it has been rambling.

      • Yeshua Vargas

        Thank you, my friend! This is exactly the type of response I was hoping for. I found it hard to discern how to present Halloween to my children in a way that would celebrate it’s true meaning without exposing them unnecessarily to temptation and sin. I will prayerfully meditate on the article and your response which was very helpful. I appreciate your time my friend, God Bless You!

      • schmenz

        Excellent points. especially about Easter. I do think that we Catholics, though, can afford to be generous here and give up our Easter bunny, and allow other religions to have him as their holiday mascot, for example: Passover Bunny. That has a nice ring to it.

      • Arizona Mike

        Sean: “Read stories that are chilling but that have a theme of honoring the dead or of resurrection…” May I recommend “A Mirror of Shalott: Tales of Ghosts and Terror” by Father Robert Hugh Benson (available very inexpensively as an Amazon Kindle edition). Father Benson, who was a great influence on G.K. Chesterton, wrote numerous books at the turn of the last century on apologetics, church history, historical fiction, and also science fiction (his “Lord of the World” is a classic dystopian tale, and is very relevant to Catholics today), as well as horror and tales of the supernatural. His “The Necromancers” is a classic novel which warns against the (then and now) popular practice of spiritualism. “A Mirror of Shalott” is a great collection of spooky stories told by a group of priests on retreat in Rome about their most unexplainable experiences with the supernatural. Some are mildly spooky, some are awe-inspiring (a near-death experience that seems to be based on an actual experience related to Fr. Benson), some (including a priest’s encounter with a demonic presence in the woods, and another story about a young priest’s witness of an exorcism in the third world) are really, really scary – yet all are based on a deeply Catholic and Christocentric worldview.

        Highly recommended for any Catholic to read during the Hallowe’en season!

    • Scott Richert

      Yeshua, I’m afraid you’ve fallen for an urban legend. Pope Benedict XVI never said anything about Halloween. Here’s what really happened:

      http://catholicism.about.com/od/Halloween/fl/Did-Pope-Benedict-XVI-Condemn-Halloween.htm

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  • Wulfrano Ruiz Sainz

    Let’s face it. Halloween, with its praise of the damned, is the satanic substitution of the celebration of the Feast of All Saints Day.

    • STF

      As I said in an earlier post, Halloween, like Easter and Christmas, has become a secular perversion of what the Church originally intended and continually intends the day to be – a holy day – a celebration of the impotence of death and the devil, which has allowed for the crowning of saints in heaven. Would you ever stop celebrating the true meaning of Christmas or Easter just because the secular and the demonic had interfered with it? For that matter, why should Catholics stand idly by and let hell have any feast day that heaven has instituted or called her own? Halloween as such is not a celebration of damnation – it has been perverted. What we should face is that we should reclaim the day and link it to All Saints and All Souls where it belongs.

  • James_Kabala

    I was recently amused by a Protestant (probably fundamentalist) publication left lying around a restaurant that argued that Halloween was invented by the Devil to distract our attention from Reformation Day! Not sure if any lesson (pro- or anti-Halloween) can be drawn from that; just thought it was funny.

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