Action Alert!

Halloween is for Catholics

By Jennifer Gregory Miller (bio - articles - email) | Oct 30, 2015

It’s the return of the annual controversy of whether Catholics should celebrate Halloween in a secular way. As a parent trying to do the right thing, it’s a struggle to find the correct balance for their own family. I wrote a long post last year, Halloween: Celebrating Like a Catholic. In short, there is no right or wrong way, and no one should tell you otherwise. But as the Jack-O-Lanterns are being carved and the final touches put on the costumes, a few thoughts this eve before Halloween:

  1. Dispelling the Myth of “Roots of Paganism”: Father Steve Grunow of Word on Fire has an excellent post this Halloween: It’s Time for Catholics to Embrace Halloween. I especially appreciated his explanations distinguishing the differences of neo-paganism and ancient paganism. There has been a reinventing of history by modern pagans and how the roots of finding this “paganism” stems from the Protestant Reformation. He also addresses the criticism of “baptizing” these pagan customs (emphasis mine):

    I realize popular religiosity is a complex phenomenon and the Church in Europe did intentionally assimilate many cultural practices that were more ancient than its own practices, but it did so selectively and with a keen sense of discernment. The end result was not simply that a veneer of Christianity was placed on top of an ancient pagan ethos, but that a new cultural matrix was created, one that was Christian to its core. It is a gross mischaracterization and oversimplification to assert that you can just scratch the surface of medieval Christianity and what rises up is paganism.

    We need to stop listening to these criticisms that eschew all of Halloween with this simple idea that it’s all based on paganism.

  2. Green Light for Trick-or-Treating: The Church has never condemned Halloween practices. The only condemnation are strictly in regards to the occult or other such matters. Your children can trick-or-treat and carve Jack-O-Lanterns and wear costumes without any guilt. It’s unfortunate that in some Catholic communities there is an opposite peer pressure to make someone feel guilty for enjoying these simple pleasures.
  3. Contemplating sin, evil, and death—a Catholic thing: It has been an inherently Catholic practice to remember evil, to contemplate death, and to face our sins. Halloween isn’t the only day that involves costumes and revelry that show this “dark” side. Carnival time, aka Mardi Gras, is another example where we see some of this focus on evil and sin. Although it’s not the ideal way to get to heaven, sometimes we need some scare tactics to remember that this world is not the final end.

    Oh, I know. There are horrid and indecent costumes, and there are some wiccan and witch evil atrocities happening somewhere. It spoils some of the Halloween fun. But the children I know aren’t embracing the evil. This a night of fun. I’m visiting my mother-in-law whose town always celebrates Halloween on Thursday, so we did our little trick-or-treating last night. We saw so many children and grown-ups in costumes, with nothing inappropriate, scary or ties in the occult.

  4. Enjoying when the Liturgical Year, Solar Calendar, and Secular Holiday all Converge: As the Church nears the end of Ordinary Time and the Liturgical Year, the Lectionary and Mass propers exhort us to focus on the Four Last Things (death, judgment, heaven, hell) plus Purgatory. We are encouraged to remember and prepare for our death, the Second Judgment and Second Coming of Christ. We will reach a culmination during November, with the addition of the month being dedicated to the Poor Souls in Purgatory and the feasts of All Saints and All Souls.

    Meanwhile, our solar calendar in the Northern Hemisphere reflects this focus on the Last Things with the seasons of autumn and winter. The secular Halloween holiday also coincides with the solar and Liturgical calendar. How often do all our worlds collide together? As Catholics we should embrace this moment!

There is no reason to be apologetic when celebrating Halloween. The innocent pleasures of this secular holiday aren’t evil, and the Catholic ties are there.

Happy Halloween!

Jennifer Gregory Miller is an experienced homemaker, home schooler, and authority on living the liturgical year. She is the primary developer of CatholicCulture.org's liturgical year section. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: rosemariedoyle9560 - Oct. 31, 2015 8:03 PM ET USA

    Since November 1 became the Feast of All Saints it is in close proximity to the Jewish Feast of Booths commemorating their time of wandering in the desert and offering praise to God for the Final Harvest. I propose that the Feast of "All" Saints include, also, those of us in process and those who will be gathered at the final harvest (Revelation 14:16). Perhaps the Holy Spirit arranged this coinciding to direct our focus, to the last days and the great final harvest of souls. How then might we celebrate?