Navigating Halloween as a Catholic can feel like a major challenge. With many Christians on social media labeling it as a holiday rooted in Satanism, many Catholics are trying to decide if and how to celebrate.
While the rest of the culture embraces “Spooky Szn,” we Catholics are invited to embrace the traditions of Hallowtide and the unique celebration of the Body of Christ.
If you're more of a video person, here's a great overview by Fr. Chris Alar on this topic!
The Catholic Origins of Halloween
Despite what many secular sources tend to say, the true substance of Halloween did not begin with the pagan Celtic Festival Samhain, nor does the holiday have its roots in the occult or Satanism as our Protestant brothers and sisters often believe. These common misconceptions are modern, anti-Catholic propaganda, with roots stemming back to the Protestant Reformation.
The word “Halloween”—or “Hallowe’en”—comes from All Hallow’s Eve which the Church marks as the first day of a triduum of feasts known as Allhallowtide.
The Solemnity of All Saints Day (once called All Hallows Day) celebrated on November 1st, which celebrates all the saints in heaven both known and unknown. This celebration is followed on November 2 with the Feast of All Souls which honors the holy souls in purgatory.
Since All Saints’ Day is a major feast it begins on the Vigil–All Hallow’s Eve, which you guessed it, is on October 31st.
The dates of these feasts do not, again as many secular sources would like to claim, indicate an attempt to “baptize” a pagan celebration in which people wear costumes and light bonfires to ward off ghosts.
All Saints Day was originally celebrated on May 13th but was changed to November 1 by Pope Gregory III coinciding with the foundation of a new chapel in St. Peter’s Basilica which he dedicated to the saints in heaven.
Traditional Halloween festivities among Catholics varied from place to place and many still exist in some form today. The French would dress up for Halloween; the Irish carved faces on to turnips (the first Jack-o-Lanterns!), and trick-or-treating came from the English who went from door-to-door begging for "Soul Cakes” in exchange for praying for the departed loved ones of those who gave them the treats.
However, even with a few similarities, it’s not difficult to see that the festivities of Halloween in today’s world have moved far away from their traditional Catholic roots.
When the first Catholic immigrants came to America, the Puritans were quick to speak out against the public festivities of Hallowtide, as they considered the Catholic faith to be a corrupting form of paganism.
The Puritans painted the holiday as a pagan event, Catholics eventually began to believe that their own customs were simply leftover from paganism. And as Catholics pulled away from their own traditional feast, it allowed the modern, secular celebration of Halloween to become the norm.
While dressing up in costume and eating candy is innocent enough, we would be wrong to think that Halloween in its current form doesn’t pose a dilemma for faithful Catholics, as so much of it glorifies violence, horror, and darkness. It highlights death in all the wrong ways.
On the other hand, the holy days of Hallowtide call to our mind the reality of heaven and hell, and invite us to meditate on our own death Memento mori-style.
It gives us members of the Church Militant an opportunity to rejoice in the gift of the Communion of Saints by honoring the Church Triumphant as well as the Church Suffering. It is a celebration of holy life and our hope for sleep in Christ.
It is time for us to reclaim what was ours.
How to Celebrate Halloween like a Catholic
All Saints Day is a holy day of obligation so why not knick off the celebration with the Saints and angels by going to Mass on All Hallow’s Eve before any other festivities.
Choose your costume or your children’s costume with your morals in mind–You don’t necessarily have to dress up as a saint (but you totally could!) just don’t pick evil characters or immodest costumes.
Visit a cemetery to pray for the dead. The Holy Souls will be happy you kept them in mind.
Host an All Hallow’s Eve/ All Saints Day party at your parish. Invite everyone to dress as a saint, enjoy some saint-themed activities, and eat some Soul Cakes. Don’t forget to give out Catholic goodie bags with prayer cards, temporary tattoos, and stickers.
Bring the light of Christ to your neighborhood by decorate pumpkins using our FREE Catholic Pumpkin Carving Templates
Free Catholic Pumpkin Templates
Give your doorstep some Catholic flair this Fall with these templates for carving (or painting) the perfect pumpkin! 10 designs to choose from! Instructions included in the PDF.Included: (2) Holy Spirit templates, Immaculate Heart of Mary template, Sacred Heart of Jesus… Read More
Share with us how you're celebrating like a Catholic this Halloween by tagging us on Instagram. And have a blessed Hallowtide!