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Before we can properly analyze what we should do with Halloween in our culture today, we must first understand where the Feast of All Saints and All Souls come from.
- The emergence of the Feast of All Saints is connected with a few events from the early Church
- First, in 609, Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Pantheon in Rome (all gods) as a Church, to Mary and all the martyrs on May 13
- Second, around 731, Pope Gregory III the Consecration of a Chapel to All Saints in St. Peters on Nov 1.
- Third, around 830, Pope Gregory IV Extended this feast to the whole Church
- There was also a Vigil for the Feast, All Hallows’ Eve, from these early times
- In the 15th C, Pope Sixtus IV added an octave of all Saints, which endured until 1954.
- All Souls
- The Church had an early practice of remembering the souls of the departed in the Mass. The celebration of a special day began in some monasteries in the 6th century, and by the 10th century spread to many dioceses, becoming fixed in some places to November 2nd, the day after All Saints Day. This date was itself adopted at Rome in the 13th century and became a universal feast.
The Liturgy of the Church is incredibly instructive for the purpose of figuring out how to celebrate Halloween…celebrate Halloween as a Catholic.
The pivot point for all cultural celebrations of Halloween should be the liturgy of Christ the King, placed on the Sunday prior to the Feast, as well as the liturgy from the Vigil of All Saints, All Saint’s Day, and All Souls day, in the context of the Church’s teaching about death, judgment, Heaven, and Hell.
- Christ the King is celebrated just prior to Halloween every year and it was placed there very intentionally by Pope Pius XI. He said,
- “before celebrating the triumph of all the Saints, we proclaim and extol the glory of him who triumphs in all the Saints and in all the Elect.”
- He added, “It will call to their minds the thought of the last judgment, wherein Christ, who has been cast out of public life, despised, neglected and ignored, will most severely avenge these insults”
- In the prayers for Christ the King, the Church asks God to “grant that all the families of the Gentiles separated by the wound of sin, may be subjected to His most loving dominion.”
- Therefore, at Halloween, we are called to pray for all who are separated from grace, who roam after the idols of this world, that they may be healed and brought into Christ’s kingdom of light.
- The Epistle from the Feast reads, from St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, “We give thanks to God the Father, Who hath made us worthy to be partakers of the lot of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.”
- This feast is a proclamation of the power of Christ over darkness, the reign of Christ which is unending, and the liberation of mankind from the grip of evil.
- From the Gospel of the day, we hear, “For this was I born, and for this came I into the world; that I should give testimony to the truth.”
- We must let Halloween be the day of Christ the King, the day of judgment upon evil and of celebration of grace; a day to recommit ourselves to the work of holiness; to renew our Baptismal vows, to bless our homes, to celebrate light in the darkness with blessed bonfires, to adorn our homes and lands with the abundance of sacramentals the Church offers to us – to prepare both as warriors adorned with “the armor of God” and servants and sons seeking to be pleasing and welcoming to the King.”
- Just a few days after this Feast is the Vigil of All Saints, literally, All Hallows’ Eve, or Halloween.
- The Epistle, from the Book of Revelation, calls to mind “The Lamb that was slain who is worthy to receive power, and divinity, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and benediction.”
- This is an excellent statement against the worship of false gods, saying that Christ the Lamb of God is the only one worthy of such veneration.
- The Epistle also states, “by Thy blood Thou didst ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and hast made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on earth.”
- Thus, the theme of “ransoming” from the domain of Satan, stealing souls away from him on All Hallows’ Eve.
- The Gospel then presents Christ as a Person desired by the multitudes, who gather around Him, in a similar way to how the angels are presented in the Epistle, “thousands of thousands” of angels attending the Lamb). When the multitudes gather around Our Lord in the Gospel, the passage presents to us the reality that “power came forth from Him and healed them all.”
- Thus, the Church wants the whole world to worship, honor, and come to Christ on Halloween, in order to receive the power of His love and healing and the gift of sanctifying grace, by which we may all become Saints.
- The Epistle, from the Book of Revelation, calls to mind “The Lamb that was slain who is worthy to receive power, and divinity, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and benediction.”
What are the Actual Things We Should Do on Halloween?
The Hallowtide customs we develop must have for their purpose, in keeping with the purpose of the Feast as established by the Church:
- Orienting souls toward eternal life
- Highlighting the reality of death and the fact that it is unavoidable
- Honoring the great Saints of the human race
- Remembering and praying for the Poor Souls in Purgatory
- Presenting a careful reminder of the real possibility of damnation
- All with an ultimate orientation to the need for prayer and for dependence on God. Without this, what we do could be superstitious or completely alien to Christianity.
- The remembrance of death, as in the martyrs and the Death of Christ, must maintain life as its focus.
- Liturgically, the famous hymn Dies Irae, “day of wrath, day of mourning,” concerning the Final Judgment and the end of the world, is sung on All Soul’s Day. It is all about death and judgment and the fear of that final sentence and where we might end up when our deeds are weighed in the scales of Divine Justice after the days of mercy dry up.
- The focus on death has been a custom in the Church for millennia, particularly flowing from the sacrifice of Christ, whose death brought divine life to man, and the fact that death is the seal upon our life and all men must face that moment.
- There are two fascinating displays of this
- One, what were called the “Dance of Death” – plays, found in Germany, Spain, Belgium, France, England, and Italy, which Italy also had something known as the “Triumph of Death.” These plays, accompanied by two sermons, at the beginning and end, on the importance of reflecting on death, involved individuals dressed in skeleton costumes, representing death, leading away, one by one, from the emperor to a member of the lowest class of society, men of every rank to their judgment.
- Another example of the historical value of reflecting on death is seen in the famous Capuchin Crypt, which is filled, artistically, with 500,000 bones from both 3700 Capuchin monks from all over the world and the poor of Italy who were served by them. These bones were collected until 1870.
- So, when it comes to a custom like Costumes:
- Why do we dress up like skeletons today? One form is appropriate, another is not. If we are doing so with the intention, and in the context of sacred reflections, perhaps it is appropriate.
- What about dressing like Vampires? Since these represent evil, again, it would be difficult to justify doing so.
- However, there is one tradition I have heard about, in which, supposedly, kids dressing up as demons shows how petty evil really is – or the triumph of good over evil. But we have to ask: is it healthy for a kid to dress up like a demon?
- Another custom I heard about was having one person in a neighborhood dress up as a witch with the sole purpose of then being driven away by others dressed as Saints or Angels, etc. Perhaps that could be justified.
- What about Scary stories?
- Well, it depends. There are many real and impactful stories about souls appearing from Purgatory, which can be creepy and a bit scary, but are nonetheless real. If they are presented in an age-appropriate manner, they could definitely be part of Hallowtide. There are also many reputable tales of damned souls visiting people on earth. St. Thomas said one reason the damned may be permitted by God to visit the earth (which is rare and requires a special permission) is for educational purposes for the living, to provide some sort of instruction to us or to test us in some manner.
- Ultimately, we need to remember and preserve the essentials of the Feast days.
- One exorcist said, “We need to “take it to the streets” and challenge the culture. It is not enough to say, “don’t dress up on Halloween” or simply to promote Adoration – that’s nice but we need to counter the culture” and take back the Feast days from the corruption of paganism and superstition and debauchery.
- Poland, for example, as in a 2019 National Catholic Register article, has been seeking to purge the “morbid, secular version of Halloween that originated in the US and spread worldwide.”
- Families there, now go to cemeteries and leave flowers and lanterns at cemeteries on that day. This comes after cleaning the graves the week before. That night, with the candles illuminating the cemetery, it creates “a real spectacle” for observers.
- They also celebrate Mass in the cemetery and then have a procession where they read the names of the dead over the course of a few hours.
- This reflects ancient customs that Poland has had, as Fr. Francis Weiser wrote about in a book on the traditions of the Catholic Faith, published in 1958.
- Additional customs have included ringing the Church bells at dusk the night before All Soul’s Day as a reminder for the faithful to pray.
- Soul cakes, in various parts of the world, in which people exchange little cakes in exchange for prayers for the departed members of one’s family. This is a very similar tradition to trick or treating, and a much more Catholic expression.
- Some areas would dedicate the octave, the eight days for All Saint’s, as “Soul Nights,” in which they would daily pray the Rosary and attend Mass for the poor souls in Purgatory.
- Many countries had customs in which they would set aside a plate of food at the main meal, in memory of a deceased member of the family, and then give that food to the poor. In some areas, the poor knew that they could go door to door and ask for food that night.
- All Saints’ cakes (braided strands of sweet dough) and All Souls bread (made from the latter leftover dough) are ancient customs that emerged from adopting local pagan rites from the pre-Christian eras in those areas.
- A pea or lentil soup, called “soul food” is prepared and given to the poor with meats and other dishes.
A pagan origin?
- The convergence of this feast with the pagan Samhain festival, the festival of summer’s end and the last harvest, was not intentional.
- It was at the end of the harvest time – more practical date to accommodate crowds
- Once this convergence happened, the Church had to deal with pagan practices around this feast day in the lands it was evangelizing.
- Some of the primary pagan beliefs that influenced pagan customs were that the dead and demons roamed the earth at Samhain. This gave rise to many beliefs such as dressing up like evil spirits in order to blend in with them and not be noticed (they were roaming in order to harass people) and to leave out food to appease the dead and keep them from bothering people as well.
- These beliefs have had an impact on modern customs such as dressing up on Halloween and giving out treats.
- However, many Catholic customs have also had an impact on what we see in practice in our culture.
Concerns about Today’s Halloween
- There has been a clear encroachment of the occult into the cultural celebrations in our country today.
- This has been emerging for over a century and is connected to commercialism, Hollywood opportunism, residual and enduring pagan Samhain beliefs, as well as the emergence of neo-paganism in the 20th Century – the modern forms of Satanism, witchcraft, and Wicca and the collapse of the practice and influence of Christianity since the 60s.
- We have to recognize that many of the elements of Secular Halloween are part of the culture of death.
- Signs of evil today
- Lowes and Hamsa hand as a “decoration”
- Increased occultic activity brings concern of spiritual dangers – Msgr. Rossetti – pray all night – attacks on him and possessed
- Ignorant Christians – Adelaide’s son was exposed to Ouija board at a Protestant group meeting on Halloween weekend – Once she presented the situation to her parish priest, he was unwilling to help or counsel her.
- Secularized Christians caving to the changing cultural celebration
- Practical atheism and religious indifference yield to the powerful push and influence from the fallen world
- Halloween – people in Europe and Asian are wearing SM and La CC costumes
- A trend I am noticing
- More gore and death scenes in yard displays on Halloween
- More depictions of witches standing in a circle, around a tree or a cauldron.
- Many Christians are corrupting the sacred feast on their own when, by seeking to avoid the evil, they end up rejecting the sacred in favor of “fall festivals” or “harvest festivals”
- And for those who dress up like characters from stories or video games, which do not represent either good or evil – what’s the point of doing that? How is that connected to this Feast of holiness and readiness for eternity?
Demons have many interests in encouraging the disordering of All Hallows’ Eve:
- A sacred day is tainted
- A sacred day is disordered
- A sacred day is made questionable in the eyes of the faithful, such that they have “harvest festivals” instead of celebrations that pivot around All Saints and All Souls.
- Pagans are given an exciting form and celebration of superstition
- An entertainment-culture gleefully embraces paganism and the dehumanization of man through the celebration of gore and horror
- Children’s imaginations are scarred by the display of the grotesque and the wicked
- Children’s minds are molded by superstitious beliefs
- Occultists are given a “holy day” and encouraged in their activities
- The occult is joined to the macabre, which itself is not evil but which then begins to look questionable to Christian observers
- Holy meditations on death are interrupted by a pagan embrace of dehumanizing horror
- Halloween is turned into a day of sin, as exorcists are warning about
Pagan/Satanic beliefs and practices
- It is the magical New Year,
- the Pagan New Year
- one of eight Wiccan feasts/sabbats, an essential sabbat,
- Some say Samhain other say Halloween
- TST: “Halloween” – “Holiday to celebrate indulgence and embrace the darkness and its aesthetic”
- The veil between this world and the spirit world is lifted
- Ancestors (any who have died) can cross over
- Wiccans are engaged in trying to talk to spirits, casting spells of protection, practicing divination
- Mirror-gazing to communicate with spirits
- Other occultists, such as one I interviewed, seek to stay away from mirrors on Halloween. Helena told me that she and her witch friends went around covering mirrors in their homes that day.
- “Although connecting with them was something you did,” she explained, “even witches wanted to do it on their own terms; not be surprised by unexpected guests.” These spirits indeed came around for them on Samhain but, as she described, “It was a very dark feeling and despite what we did, you felt a presence and I could sense that they were not all ‘family,’ that it was something evil; not just Aunt Sue coming around.”
- Ghost water: “A certain online witchcraft forum contained a warning from an experienced witch that, since the upcoming full moon (2020) was a blue moon, falling on Halloween night, it posed some dangers to those trying to make “moon water” that night. Moon water is made by witches by leaving a jar of water out under the moon at different phases. This supposedly makes the water sacred in a specific way, which varies based on the phase of the moon at the time. Ghost water, which is regarded by witches as effective for hexing, is usually made by leaving a jar of water out in a cemetery. The warning was issued because, apparently, since, as witches believe, the veil is so thin between the visible and invisible world at Halloween/Samhain, the practitioner might end up making “ghost water” instead of “moon water.” The danger is that the energy from ghost water has the potential to go badly if mishandled, so she urged caution. Since ghosts, she claimed, are attracted to reflective surfaces, you might mistakenly attract them to your jar of water. She also reminded the reader that “not all ghosts are friendly,” so this situation might pose a hazard.
- The curses against Trump by witches in 2020 were on Halloween, the blue moon
- The world’s current largest Ouija board, Ouijazilla, in Salem, MA, and the former title holder, in a Windber PA haunted hotel, were both unveiled just before Halloween
- Santa Muerte, the fastest growing new religious movement in the Americas
- In 2001, Doña Queta dedicated the first, and the most famous, shrine to SM at midnight on Halloween – thanks for a miracle that SM performed for her son.
- This is the moment when SM went from a secret devotion to a public cult that is now the fastest growing new religious movement in the Americas
- In 2017, Chesnut said that devotees of Santa Muerte are beginning to see this entity as the reincarnation of Mictecacihuatl, the Aztec goddess of death and are establishing the Day of the Dead as her “unofficial feast day.” This, Chesnut said, is causing a “huge panic” in the Church.
List of “Perversions of Halloween”
- The obvious effort of the fallen world and the occult to mock the sacred feast is a clear example of how the occult is working directly at being a parody, mockery, counterfeit of the One True Faith.
- Rossetti – the modern celebration is a “diabolical distortion” of the authentic Halloween
- The world presents a day of darkness and fear when The Liturgy for Christ the King and All Saint’s Vigil proclaims the destruction of the reign of darkness
- When the world focuses on Ghost hunting for entertainment, or wandering souls in search of appeasement, the Church focuses on offering prayers and sacrifices for the good of the souls in Purgatory, who are not wandering here but seeking to enter Heaven.
- Gruesome depictions of death instead of a reverence for the bodies of the Saints.
- Celebrating the occult instead of Divine Light
- Passing over into a mysterious realm instead of focusing on the need for a holy death and purification
- Worshiping SM, a hideous skeleton deity who protects the one who worships her from Judgment instead of depicting skeletons in order to prepare oneself for that unavoidable moment when our deeds are weighed in the scales of divine Judgment
- People, even Catholic youth, embracing the darkness, the occult, and grave sins that night, believing this night “doesn’t count”
- An exorcist commented, “I have adults come to me saying ‘you can cross over barriers and boundaries that you can’t normally, but you can today’ – and ‘you can meet some real witches – get a little scared, but it was just for the night, then you go back to normal life” – But, as he said, the evil they fraternize with will follow them home and then they have a spiritual, and dangerous, mess to clean up.
- While Our Lord gives plenty of warnings against Hell, embracing a season/celebration of fear and fright is more akin with the devil’s approach.
- The Roman Ritual, for example, states, in the prayers used by the priest in the exorcism, that, regarding the possessed person, by falling prey to “the craftiness of the devil, the ancient adversary, the archenemy of the earth,” the possessed person suffers from an onslaught of torment. The devil “enshrouds the person in shuddering fear,” “renders the mental faculties befuddled,” “keeps him bewildered by making him sore afraid,” “holds him in a state of perturbation,” and “strikes terror within him.”
- As mentioned earlier, occultist who worship SM are about to establish a feast day for the demon on the Feast of All Saints or All Souls.
Common Things to Avoid
- With the evil clearly in view, it is obvious that the culture has many customs that have become commonplace and which thoughtless Christians sometimes embrace in an effort to join the revelry and have some fun. However…
- Be very careful with horror movies. Most are disordered and present terrible theology of ghosts and demons.
- Ouija boards – these are very dangerous, even many occultists won’t go near them.
- Ghost hunting apps – a very trendy thing but it functions just like a Ouija board and poses the same dangers
- Drugs – these are always dangerous but, in the context of dabbling with the occult, it can cause the door to demons to swing wide open
- Haunted houses – typically, these are inhabited by demons, and demons are the ones who want that kind of attention, not souls from purgatory. Also, a desire to see spirits, ghosts or demons, is a dangerous form of curiosity which can be an invitation to a demon to enter your life.
- One example of the confused culture is Teen Vogue. It has an article from a few years ago called “Ten Signs your home may be haunted. It lists several signs that are accurate but also includes “foul odors,” “temperature drops,” and “shadow people,” among the signs that a ghost is present, all of which are actually indications of a demon being present – plus, it recommends superstitious practices to dispel the spirit, like black salt and the use of specific stones. It does, however, twice warn against using Ouija boards, which is smart.
- We should also purge our minds of any superstition that we currently hold as a result of the prevalence of the occult beliefs in our society.
- Souls from Purgatory do not get released on Nov 2
- The veil is not thinner during Hallowtide
- The communion with the Church Suffering and the Church Triumphant might be more tangible then, though, because faith is stronger and this binds us more closely to Our Lord and these invisible realities
- Evil spirits do not roam the earth with greater authority
- Departed spirits do not need to be appeased
- Though there is a clear place for the macabre in the customs of our Faith, perhaps it would be better for Halloween to resemble Christmas in the outward display of lights and candles. At Christmas, the Light has entered the darkness of our world. At Halloween, we celebrate the fact that that same divine Light has transformed individual men and women into reflections and imitations of that divine Light, bringing grace and healing and miracles to a broken humanity and world.
- We should celebrate the victory, not the defeat, at Halloween.
- However, we are not at a moment in the history of our culture or country in which we can afford to surrender a day to Satan.
- Keep All Hallows Catholic. God bless you.
 Another term used for “cursing.”
 Of course, the Church rejects this portrayal of ghosts. Ghosts are souls from Purgatory and are not interested in their reflection. Any invisible entity acting in this manner is a demon, albeit one pretending to be a “friendly ghost,” which is a common ploy they incorporate in their deception.