This year Americans are projected to spend $9.1 billion dollars on Halloween candy and costumes. Some call it the second most anticipated “holiday” of the year in America. Though it doesn’t exactly compete with Christmas in retail sales, it curiously competes in many other ways.
The Spirit of Halloween vs. the Spirit of Christmas
The contrast between the two holidays is so stark that we can affirm that the spirit of Halloween has become the antithesis of the spirit of Christmas.
In Christmas we celebrate the birth of Christ while in Halloween death is celebrated through its displays of skeletons, corpses, and tombstones. In Christmas, we think of angels, kings, shepherds and drummer boys. In Halloween, people think of ghouls, devils, zombies, witches, and even the “living dead” clawing their way out of tombs.
In Christmas, the hearth is filled with innocent carols and heart-warming stories of conversion and generosity. In Halloween, there are amusement parks with creepy music and heart rending screams. Everything we associate with Christmas portrays goodness, generosity, cheer and merriness. On the contrary, Halloween portrays the ugly, evil, the occult and even the Satanic.
Curiously both events target children as the main participants in the festivities.
Is Halloween Pagan or Christian?
Some say Halloween is a pagan celebration. The Celtic Druids did have a feast on November 1 marking the end of the summer period, called the Samhain (pronounced sow-in) 3 when spirits were expected to be highly active and therefore spells and incantation were needed. The pagans of the time would use masks or dress in a way that would ward off spirits.
However, the Church later instituted a feast to honor all saints, recognized and unrecognized. According to Merriam-Webster, the original name for All Saints Day, now a holy day of obligation celebrated on November 1, was All Hallows Even (evening). This was abbreviated to All Hallows Eve, later to Hallow e’en, to today’s form of Halloween. 2
This feast was never was a pagan festival but a Catholic one. It was established by Boniface IV in 615 and was transferred from May 13 to November 1 by Gregory III in 844.4
Despite its Christian roots, it doesn’t stop the modern day “pagans” from celebrating like Druids.
Celebrating Halloween Like A Pagan?
The signs of that someone is celebrating Halloween like a pagan are very simple to spot.
First, there is the way families decorates their homes. The trend has always been the scarier, the better but now the macabre is dominating with front yards full of spider webs, zombies, witches and monsters. Some have even placed tombstones with the dead crawling out of the ground. Some go as far as to use candy bowls in the shape of the devil with a sign encouraging children to take a treat.
Second, a sign of pagan celebration is when children are encouraged to dress up as characters who look ugly, evil, sinful or harmful. They often represent murderers, occultists or even the devil himself. Children, in their innocence, normally have a natural aversion for such dark portrayals.
Third, the choice of entertainment is a sign of pagan celebration. Televison networks promote horror shows over Halloween. Many focus on creatures that terrorize a community. Some delve deeply into the occult and macabre. The fifth top grossing film this year, for example, is It, a movie about a evil clown who abducts and eats children. 1
The Danger of Celebrating Halloween as a Pagan
In October of 2014, the International Association of Exorcists met in Rome, gathering together 300 exorcists from around the world. Speaker Fr. Aldo Buonauioto talked about the danger of letting children be exposed to this type of behavior during Halloween.
He warned that “there is nothing innocent or fun about it – it is the antechamber to something much more dangerous.” It is “like an initiation into the Occult”, he said. “For the sects, it is the best time of year to recruit new members. From here, the door to the devil can be opened. For this reason, it’s necessary for us to speak out and not play down the danger.”
“There are always more evil rituals, animal sacrifices, desecrations of cemeteries and thefts of sacred bones at the time of the 31 October,” he concluded.
Today Halloween is celebrated more as a pagan festivity than a Catholic one. However, it can still has a Catholic meaning that can be celebrated. It remains the vigil of the feast to celebrate all saints. It can also be extended to November 2, All Souls Day, in which the Church prays for deceased members, especially those still in purgatory.
Can There Be A Return To Catholic Halloween
If culture can be restored, one way to begin is with Halloween. Here are six ways to celebrate the Halloween periods like a Catholic.
First, go to Mass. It is on the eve of a holy day of obligation and Mass can prepare us to celebrate the feasts that follow as originally intended. Remember Halloween was originally a cycle of holy days that went from the eve of All Saints Day to All Souls Day.
Second is to pray to all the saints and martyrs. Saints and martyrs are the natural role models of the Church. Our struggle to attain the salvation of our souls is helped by admiring the saints who came before us. Imitating a great athlete from the past is an excellent way to be come an athlete. To obtain holiness, we need to imitate the blessed that came before us.
Third is to encourage devotion to patron saints in children. The act of admiring saints has to be restored and become part of our culture. It needs to start with children since they have a natural inclination to admire people that surround them. It is especially during this period that they need to acquire the habit of looking up to saints for inspiration. If they need to dress up in a costume, encourage them to dress up as a Catholic saint or hero.
Fourth is to pray for deceased family members. In conjunction with paying respect to all the saints, the feast day following All Saints Day is All Souls Day. It is understood that the faithful who have attained salvation but have not attained eternal reward are suffering in the fires of purgatory. We may have family members who are still suffering in Purgatory. We should pray for them throughout the year. It is at this day that the Church reminds and encourages us to have them present in our thoughts and concerns.
Fifth is to pray for all the souls in Purgatory. There are suffering souls in purgatory who have no one to pray for them. Their family line may have ended or family members may have forgotten about them. Their descendants may no longer practice the faith. Whatever the case may be, there are always suffering souls in need of prayers.
Three good practices include sprinkling holy water on the grave for the benefit of suffering souls, make a sign of cross and a short prayer whenever passing by a cemetery, and pray the following prayer daily: “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. And let the perpetual light shine upon them. And may the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.”
Sixth is to decorate homes with items associated with the saints, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ or God in general. Avoid or throw away horrendous Halloween decorations that are associated with the devil or evil things, since they are toxic for the soul.
Halloween was intended to be celebrated as a Catholic feast day cycle. It can once again be restored to its roots but, as with all movements of conversion, it needs two necessary initial steps. We need to burn what we have adored and adore what we have burned.