The topic of Catholics and Halloween is a controversial one. Many people around the world celebrate Halloween with costume parties, scary decorations and trick-or-treating from one house to the next. Should Catholics participate in these traditions? Should we celebrate Halloween?
As members of a society that embraces this occasion, we need to know where we stand in light of our Catholic faith.
A Brief History of Halloween
To better understand the relationship between Catholics and Halloween we must first trace the roots of this holiday. Halloween is a contraction of the phrase “All Hallows’ Evening.” Many countries celebrate it on October 31, the eve of All Hallow’s Day.
The exact origins of Halloween is not clear. It is commonly believed to have Pagan roots and many of its traditions are influenced by Celtic harvest festivals. More typically, Halloween is associated with the Celtic festival of Samhain, which means “summer’s end” in Old Irish.
Samhain is an ancient Gaelic festival that celebrates the harvest and marks the beginning of winter. The harsh season of winter brought with it an unshakeable feeling of death. The popular Halloween tradition of trick-or-treating or going door to door asking for treats was said to have originated from a belief that the souls of the dead came to the mortal world during Samhain. The only way to appease these spirits was to give them offerings of food and drink. In exchange for these offerings, the spirits would grant people good fortune.
Trick-or-treating evolved from a practice in which people impersonated the spirits of the dead and thus received food or drinks on their behalf. Today, many people, both young and old, celebrate Halloween by wearing costumes and going trick-or-treating.
Halloween is also said to be influenced by Christian beliefs and traditions. The name of the holiday itself references All Hallow’s Day, the Christian festival that honors all the saints.
All Hallow’s Day was first celebrated in the month of May but Pope Gregory IV later moved it to November 1 thus making October 31 All Hallow’s Eve. Some historians speculate that this change of date was done to “Christianize” Samhain. However, others contend that this decision may have been because the Germanic church was already observing All Hallow’s Day on November 1.
Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?
To answer the question of whether we as Catholics can celebrate Halloween we will need to discover our reason for wanting to practice it in the first place. Halloween is not bad per se. In fact, looking back to its history we can see its Christian influences.
In modern times, however, the holiday has become increasingly associated with the sinister and even the debauched. Many people no longer associate Halloween with the more religious All Hallow’s Eve but as a secular holiday that glorifies evil and the supernatural.
To have a faith-based perspective about these things we must keep in mind what the Bible says about practices that are related to magic or the supernatural.
“Let there not be found among you anyone who causes their son or daughter to pass through the fire, or practices divination, or is a soothsayer, augur, or sorcerer, or who casts spells, consults ghosts and spirits, or seeks oracles from the dead. Anyone who does such things is an abomination to the LORD, and because of such abominations the LORD, your God, is dispossessing them before you.”
-Deuteronomy 18:10 -12
Chapter 18 in Deuteronomy clearly stops us from dabbling in the occult, consulting with spirits and practicing divination. Even if we do these questionable things out of fun, we are going against the commands of God and He views these activities as “abominations.”
The bottom line is if we are to join in the festivities we need to bring back the Christian aspect of Halloween into the celebration.
Christians and Halloween
There are plenty of ways that we can celebrate this occasion without violating any of the teachings of the Catholic Faith. Here are three practical ways to do this.
Remember the saints
Instead of focusing on just fun and merriment, let us emphasize the significance of All Hallow’s Day to the celebration of Halloween. All Hallow’s Day or All Saints Day is a meaningful celebration of the lives of all the saints and these saints include our loved ones who are now in heaven. Halloween is an opportune time to remember the saints with our family and friends.
Talk about spiritual warfare
Halloween is full of references of evil spirits and dark forces. The occasion is an opportune time to evangelize others about the reality of these evil elements. We can talk to our friends and family about spiritual warfare. More importantly, we can share to them that God is powerful and He will faithfully protect us from harm.
There is nothing wrong with wearing a costume to join in on the merriment but we need to keep in mind what the Bible says about dressing modestly. We can still participate in the fun without having to wear something that is shameful in the eyes of God. Similarly, we must be careful about costumes that glorify supernatural evil.
It is unnecessary to completely shun Halloween. We just need to shift our focus back to what is pleasing before God and not offensive to our Catholic sensibilities.
How do you plan to celebrate Halloween this year? How does your faith come into play in the activities and traditions of the occasion?