Let's Unmask the Real Halloween
By Chris Sparks (Oct 29, 2015)
We celebrate the Feast of All Saints on Nov. 1 every year. You could say we're cheating a little bit by having one day annually when we celebrate everybody — every last person who's in heaven, every last child of Mary who has accepted Jesus's offer of salvation and triumphed over the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
And the evening before, we celebrate the Vigil of All Saints, also known as All Hallows Eve — Halloween.
Now many Christians have some serious objections to Halloween as it's presently celebrated. They're concerned about the casual way in which parents send out their children dressed as witches, ghosts, and demons, the celebration of the macabre, and modern pagans attempting to claim the feast for their own. Some perhaps are worried about overdoses on candy, or the dangers of having their children knock on strangers' doors on a night when everyone is in costume, in disguise. In short, they worry that the holiday has become far too enslaved to the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Some of the concerns are no doubt well placed. And yet Halloween is essentially a Catholic feast, and should be celebrated by Catholics.
If costuming your children as witches, ghosts, or demons concerns you, exorcise the demons from the wardrobe! Bring on the angels and the saints, the knights who will slay the dragons and the princesses who will rule their lands with justice and peace. Dress your children in the raiment of the lords and ladies of the heavenly court. Perhaps even send a child forth as St. John the Baptist, platter and all, or St. Barbara with a lightening bolt, or the other martyrs in all the glory of their wounds. Or send out a troupe of hobbits into the night, or Narnians, or Tolkien and Lewis themselves.
If the holiday seems too macabre to some people, remember that we Catholics are members of the religion of relics and reminders of death, of bone chapels in Rome and Spain, of St. Januarius' blood which annually liquefies and the blood of St. John Paul II being carried in procession at his beatification ceremony. We are the Church in which burying the dead is a work of mercy and praying for the dead, an act of love. We are the Church with a relic of a saint in every altar and a Sacrament that involves eating Christ's Body and drinking his Blood. We are a religion that is very much at home with what the rest of the West would call the "macabre."
For all the effort modern pagans put into claiming Halloween for their own, recall that Halloween is really the Vigil of the Feast of All Saints. What could be more Catholic than to have a night of festivities in honor of the holy ones of God? And what could be more festive than celebrating with candy? Trick-or-treating reminds us that we are to love and be loved, to give and to receive, to know that the underlying reality of life is gift and blessing — that at its heart, life is sweet, and far better than it so often appears.
What could be more Christian than a night in which none are strangers? We are called to know and love our neighbors. We are brethren of all of humanity, and so no one should really be a stranger. As Cardinal Timothy Dolan says, "Joy is the infallible sign of God's presence."
So this Halloween, celebrate! Celebrate the Vigil of All Saints Day with a Rosary before an image of Our Lady, with prayers asking the intercession of the angels and the saints. Tell the tales of the heroes of our Church, the heroes of heaven and earth, the mightiest of the mighty in former days. Let the rest of the world have their ghost stories. We have our saint stories — St. Joseph of Cupertino, the flying friar; St. Padre Pio the wonderworker; St. Maximilian Kolbe, the martyr for charity; St. Catherine of Siena, mighty prayer warrior; St. Faustina, mystic and prophetess; and of course Our Blessed Mother Mary, Queen of heaven and earth. On and on they run, a great torrent of light down through history, giving hope to a world in darkness.
Take Halloween and make it joyful. Celebrate the triumph of the light of Christ over the night of the world. Teach your children through receiving trick-or-treaters to give food to the strangers who knock on their door, and, by taking them trick-or-treating, that neighbors will share what they have, as well. Embrace the true spirit of the night — the spirit of All Hallows, of all the holy ones, of charity and good humor, of joy and of light.
To read about Marians and their Helpers reclaiming Halloween for Christ, see our story Working Together to Renew Halloween.