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A Catholic's Guide to Halloween

Oct 25, 2017 By Gretchen Filz

Catholics and Halloween . . . is it a good or a bad mix? Here's the scoop.

HALLOWEEN FACTS

  • Halloween is short for All Hallow's Eve. It is the vigil of All Saints (All Hallows) Day. All Saints Day is a Holy Day of Obligation, and thus a major feast on the Catholic Church's liturgical calendar.

  • Halloween (October 31st) is connected with All Saints Day (November 1st) and All Souls Day (November 2nd). These three days taken together are the "Days of the Dead," a triduum of feasts also called Allhallowtide, Hallowtide, or Hallowmas ('hallow' means to honor as holy).

  • Halloween is, therefore, the first day of Allhallowtide, the time of year when the living (i.e. the Church Militant) honors all the dead in Christ: all the saints in heaven (i.e. the Church Triumphant) as well as all the holy souls detained in purgatory on their way to heaven (i.e. the Church Suffering). It is a beautiful celebration of the communion of saints!

  • Catholics historically believed that on these "Days of the Dead", their annual feast, the veil between heaven, hell, and purgatory is the thinnest (that means you might even see some souls you know!).

  • Halloween begins the celebration these Christian holy days that remind the faithful of the reality of heaven and hell, the saints and the damned, demons and angels, and the holy souls suffering in purgatory.

Read more: What Do Catholics Really Believe About Purgatory?

Honoring the Dead: A Catholic's Guide to Halloween All Souls Day graveyard

  • In the year 844 A.D. Pope Gregory III transferred the feast of All Saints (which honored especially the unknown martyrs and "hidden" saints whom we do not know by name) from May 13th to November 1st to coincide with a chapel in St. Peter's Basilica which he dedicated to all the saints in heaven. His successor, Pope Gregory IV, extended the feast of the dedication to the universal Church.

  • Evening vigils with pious celebrations on the day before a major feast or solemnity were customary in historical Catholic Europe; the rhythms of their lives and culture moved with the liturgical calendar.

  • In medieval times churches often displayed the bones and relics of their saints on Halloween (i.e. the vigil of All Saints Day) for public veneration.

  • The true substance of Halloween belongs to the Catholic Church.

  • Halloween is a Catholic holiday and does not have its origins in paganism, Samhain, Celtic/Druidic festivals, the occult, or Satanism. This common misconception is modern anti-Catholic propaganda, with roots going back to the Protestant Reformation, and has no basis in historical fact.

  • English, Irish, and French immigrants to America brought their variety of local Catholic customs with them: Dressing up for Halloween comes from the French; Jack-o-Lanterns come from the Irish (originally carved turnips); and the English begged from door to door for "Soul Cakes," promising to pray for the departed loved ones of those who gave them these treats, the roots of trick-or-treating. These traditions converged in the American melting pot.

Dance of Death: A Catholics Guide to Halloween The "Dance of Death" depicted in medieval art.

  • When European Catholics immigrated to the predominantly Protestant America, bringing their cultural Catholic customs with them (i.e. celebrations of liturgical feasts), it was denounced as pagan (the same attempts were made regarding Christmas and Easter).

  • The contemporary version of Halloween that glorifies the demonic with an emphasis on violence, horror, and sensuality is, at least in part, a result of Catholics believing the Protestant propaganda against their faith (that it is evil, rather than holy) and pulling away from a traditional and faithful celebration of this essentially religious holiday.

  • It is true that Halloween has been badly corrupted and hyper-commercialized just like Christmas and Easter, but, just as that should never stop Catholics from fully celebrating the great feasts of the Church the Catholic  way, neither should it stop Catholics from enjoying Halloween as a celebration of the great feast of All Saints Day.

  • To avoid superstition and any negative influence of the occult, Halloween should not be honored or celebrated apart from Catholic truth (in the same way we should keep the birth of Christ at the center of Christmas, and the Resurrection of Christ at the center of Easter).

  • Halloween is a day to reflect on Christ's triumph over sin, death, and Satan; to meditate on our own mortality and duties to God; to shun sin and the devil; to give honor to the saints in heaven; and to pray for the souls of the faithful departed in purgatory. And, of course, to have fun with joyful feasting and merriment. Happy Halloween!

HOW TO CELEBRATE

Catholics should not neglect the celebration of any of the Church's major feasts, and All Saints Day is no exception. It is a Holy Day of Obligation, meaning that Catholics are obliged to attend Mass just as if it were a Sunday.

Celebrate the feast by taking the family to Mass on All Hallow's Eve, and pray for the intercession of the saints in heaven—especially those who are your patrons. Read about the lives of the saints, hand out holy cards, have a party with saint-based activities or costumes for kids.

On All Saints Day thank the saints for what they have done for you; adorn their altars and images with flowers, venerate their relics, recite special prayers and litanies in their honor. Enjoy a special meal with loved ones.

Then, on All Souls Day, pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory and make sacrifices on their behalf, especially those whom you have known and loved, and for those who have no one to pray for them. Visit graveyards and cemeteries to pray for the dead who can no longer pray for themselves.

Continue reading 20 Ways to Pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory

In this way you will faithfully and joyfully celebrate Hallowmas in a manner that is pleasing to God!

MORE HALLOWEEN RESOURCES

Want to read more Halloween facts? Each of the great articles below go into greater depth on the above points and offer more historical insight into the Catholic festival of Halloween:

>> Should Catholics Celebrate Halloween?

>> It's Time for Catholics to Embrace Halloween

>> Is Halloween the Devil's Day?

>> Halloween: Don't Be Spooked, It's Catholic

>> The Anti-Catholic Origins of the Attack on Halloween

A Catholic Guide to Halloween

This article has been updated and was originally published in October 2015. © The Catholic Company. All rights reserved.

Comments

RANDY ESTERLEY says
Nov 2 2018 12:02AM
Gretchen, thanks soooooo much for your explanation to Max. I have always prayed for the souls in Purgatory to be released, but then I think too, that we should also pray to the "holy souls in Purgatory," because in reality, THEY are one step CLOSER to Heaven than we are .......
Cesar Cancino says
Oct 31 2018 12:26PM
The fact that you want something to be different doesn't change the origin of the things. This come from a Pagan tradition with even human and animal sacrifices, please investigate. We need to accept Halloween is an American business, and because we like the idea of "having fun" we let many doors open to dark things, and even worst because of this kind of articles that just feeds the idea because we denied ourselves to abandoned this American practices. Jesus said: " if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

So why should we let other things in our lives that represents dead instead of the light of our savior. Why would you dress your holy home of old demoniac symbols, did you know the black cat uses as a symbol was one of the main demons in this old pagan Celtic tradition? Please investigate, the pope said, you don't dialogue with the devil, because he will stab you you with the tail. He is the father of the tricks and lies. Don't deny kids have said "I love Halloween" when they should say "I love jesus"

You all are saying is fun and is great. But you are falling in the trick. is called New Age. From the beginning humanity things they can deal with death and satanic things without getting dirty, but that's the first sin, pride, we think we are stronger that Satan. Yes Jesus defeated death, but not us. We will by getting closer to him by letting him be the only one in out hearts. According a lot of your perspectives, we can dress our houses of dead but having Jesus on out hearts?

So is ok to dress my kid as a little Dracula? King of undeath and blood sucker? Kids are not able to identify this things in the way you think you are. Please be sure you pay attention, the materialistic culture is all over in here. They just know they can change their identity and receive candys because they deserve it. And even worst because you will "Trick or Treat"

1.-You shall have no other gods before Me.

2.-You shall not make idols.



God bless you all
Hi Cesar, there has definitely been a rise in the occult and New Age in recent years as Christianity in America has been in decline. However, the origins of Halloween as the Catholic celebration of All Hallows Eve is not pagan in origin. We as Catholics are used to having our holy days co-opted by the culture and twisted into something it is not. For example, many see St. Patrick's day as an opportunity to get drunk; Christmas becomes the celebration of Santa Claus (a distortion of St. Nicholas) and snowmen. However we as Catholics should not avoid celebrating our holy days, we should instead strive to celebrate them faithfully according to their true spirit, centered on Holy Mass and the veneration of the Saints. As such, Catholics should definitely avoid all signs of the demonic in their celebration of Halloween.
Alexis A says
Oct 30 2018 1:55PM
I learned that Halloween is a Catholic holiday and I learned why it was a Catholic holiday. I also learned, "the first day of Allhallowtide, the time of year when the living (i.e. the Church Militant) honors all the dead in Christ: all the saints in heaven"
Percy says
Oct 31 2017 11:57AM
I am happy to know Halloween is connected to our Catholic faith, eve of All Saints Day and All Souls Day, and that it reminds us of death, hell, purgatory, and heaven.
Joanna K says
Oct 30 2017 5:07PM
Cecilia Rose, your comment and explain is spot on! The way that Halloween is celebrated now with the focus on costumes, candy, and occultist symbols such as vampires, witches, evil spirits, and so on, is very dangerous.

Gretchen,

Thank you for your article! It bolstered my belief in celebrating a true Halloween does not present a conflict to my faith. I've very much have been trying in our own home to not let it become one another Catholic "Holi(y) days" taken away from us by secularization. I especially enjoyed learning of the terms: Allhallowtide, Hallowtide, and Hallowmas.
Cecilia Rose says
Oct 14 2017 11:36AM
Letizia is onto something, and she has it right! She describes the holiday from the perspective of someone from the Philippines, and it's very similar to what I see here in Texas, where we have a large Hispanic population-- in part because of the history of Texas.

The people of Mexico, and Mexican-Americans, have a wonderful way of observing the All-Hallows Triduum. They call it Día de los Muertos... Day of the Dead. It is actually a 2-3 day holiday that honors the faithful departed and their deceased loved ones, while "poking fun" at death. It's a VERY big deal here in Texas and in other places with a large Hispanic population. It's a FUN and HAPPY time, and very family-friendly. There are no "evil" symbols, like werewolves, witches, vampires or any of that stuff associated with the occult. However, the sugar skull, or 'calavera' is very prominent. The 'day' is marked with memorials to deceased loved ones and ancestors... traditionally, things like decorated altars covered with flowers (marigolds are traditional!), candles, favorite foods of the deceased loved ones, favorite things, etc. They visit cemeteries and place flowers and have celebrations of the life of the departed. People even dress in the clothes of their departed loved ones, and have 'posadas' to gather food and treats for their deceased friends and family-- thus, trick or treating and dressing in costumes still fits the spirit of the holiday period.

This is in keeping with Scripture, namely 1 Corinthians 15:55-57

55 “Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Death holds no sway over those who are in Christ, and in whom Christ lives-- thus the theme of poking fun at death! Because Christ conquered death and cleanses us from our sin... death holds no power over us. We are also called to "Honor our father and mother". While at first glance, this might be taken to mean our literal parents, it can also mean our ancestors who have gone before us. The festivities of Día de los Muertos are doing just that. Celebrants do decorate with the things and symbols that their loved ones enjoyed while on earth. It isn't just about their death-- but also their life. The decorated skulls and cute, funny skeletons are ways to make fun of death, and show that we are not afraid of it. We in Christ should NOT fear death, for when we die, we are born again in heaven to live forever with Him. How wonderful is that!

Halloween, on the other hand, has much symbolism in the occult (think: witches, satanic rituals, zombies, vampires...) and it has become a "high day" for practitioners of the occult. We as Christians should NOT associate with such things or people. Thus, I myself don't observe "Halloween" as it has become. Día de los Muertos is MUCH closer to what God and the Holy Church want us to do, to honor our saints and our loved ones who have gone to be with Christ, and who are on the journey to heaven (Purgatory).

I'm not a spoilsport at all. I think it's a wonderful observation, honoring our saints and dearly departed. I just don't think that "modern Halloween" is the way to do it, as a Catholic. "Day of the Dead" is very much in keeping with Catholic tradition and custom, and it's a joyful time for all, without the scariness and gore of Halloween.

Just my take on it!
Billy the Kid says
Oct 31 2016 9:13AM
i just like this and i think that that is just great and i really just think that that it is great and and i just really hope you think its great because i think its really just great
Martha Christine says
Oct 28 2016 5:32PM
Traditionally Halloween - the Vigil of All Saints - is a day of Fasting (for those over 21) and Partial Abstinence (meat allowed only once during the day for those over 7), a little penance in preparation for the next day. All Saints Day, a Holy Day of Obligation, is a Feast Day of the highest rank, comparable to Easter or Christmas and is a time for celebration. All Souls Day is a more somber observance when we should visit a church or cemetery and say prayers for departed souls.
Marina Davis says
Oct 28 2016 5:12PM
I personally dont think hallows-eve is negative. Only close minded people think this way. I give a food offering on day of the dead. Also wine. Followed by prayer.
Looks you don't have a complete knowledge about catholic faith

Souls in Purgatory are not Holy yet, so they need our prayer

On the other hand those in Hell are condemned forever

It makes the difference, doesn't?
Hi Max, the souls in purgatory are called "holy souls" because they die in the friendship of God, they are saved from hell, and they can no longer sin; it does not mean that they are already saints in heaven. In the same way we might call a living person 'holy', such as in the phrase, "He's a holy priest." Holy does not necessarily mean perfect. The Church by long-standing tradition has always referred to them piously as the "faithful departed" or the "holy souls" as well as "poor souls".
The Day of the Dead is All Souls Day , isn't??

So Halloween is honoring those in Hell, right??
Hi Max, All Souls Day is a day of remembrance and prayer for the Holy Souls in Purgatory (who are being purified on their way to heaven).
Letizia says
Nov 1 2015 6:02PM
When I was growing up in the Philippines, celebrating All Souls Day means going to the cementerio or campo santo to offer prayers and flowers on the graveside of beloved departed. The evening before (Oct.31st), young men and women go around ringing bells and singing asking for prayers to release them from purgatory.It was usually a fun evening because we had to partake a snack of rice cakes and arroz caldo ( chicken parts sauteed in garlic, onions, ginger and fish sauce, then mixed with rice and boiled together to form a delicious soup garnished with green onions. I never had to wear a costume and trick or treat but I got to go to the cemetery and watched the gravesides a -bloomed with flowers and people having a fiesta atmosphere as they gathered, prayed and unite once a year to honor their dead relatives. We never made the dead scary but we honor their memories!
Hortencia Chaparro says
Oct 31 2015 10:08AM
Thankyou for the information. Helped me to learn more about my faith.

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Gretchen Filz Gretchen Filz

Gretchen is a Lay Dominican with a passion for fostering an increase in Catholic faith and devotion through content writing and journalism. She works as a digital content writer, creator, and marketer for The Catholic Company. In addition to blogging at GetFed.com, she is also editor of the MorningOffering.com daily devotional email and author at GoodCatholic.com. She holds an M.A. in Christian Apologetics and converted to the Catholic Church in 2011. She is also active in R.C.I.A., pro-life work, and various faith-based web projects.

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