THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: The word Halloween comes from an abbreviation of the phrase 'All Hallows Eve.' The word 'hallow' is the old English version of 'holy' or 'saint'. All Hallows Eve (or Halloween) is the eve before a high feast day in the Catholic Church (November 1st) called 'All Hallows Day' or more commonly known as 'All Saints Day.' It is the day on which the Church commemorates all the Saints of heaven, both canonised and uncanonised by the Church. The Catholic Church has special feast days for various individual Saints who stand out for various reasons. All Hallows (or All Saints) is the day when we remember them all -- millions of them!
It is particularly in the United States, where the commercialisation of all Christian holy days has been perfected to an exact science, the Halloween celebration has taken on a particularly non-religious and macabre character, where in the occult is more glorified than the faith of Christians. Perhaps we should not be surprised by this, for it is in America where Christmas has become more a celebration of the mythical Santa Clause than the birth of Jesus Christ. America has almost nearly succeeded in turning the celebration of Christ's resurrection, Easter, into the glorification of a rabbit who hides coloured eggs. It's an eye-opener really, as the United States seems to lead the way in the de-christianising of Christian holy days. Nowhere is this more evident than in the observance of Halloween. I find it odd really, that Americans would revel in the gross perversion of a Catholic holy day -- a holy day not shared by most of America's Protestant majority.
Americans are not alone however. The macabre Americanised version of Halloween is now being picked up in other countries around the world, as the United States exports a celebration of death and the occult on the eve of a day that is supposed to honour the holiness of those who's bodies may sleep, but who's souls are fully alive in Jesus Christ.
So what do we do now? Do we take the Protestant Fundamentalist solution, and lock ourselves in our houses on Halloween, cursing the darkness and hiding from children in costumes? Do we follow the Evangelical example of handing out gospel tracts, instead of candy, to those poor lost souls shouting 'Trick or Treat' all night? Or do we, as Catholics, TAKE BACK what is rightfully ours to begin with!?! I vote for the last option. Will you join me?
The nice thing about reclaiming Halloween is it doesn't take anymore than a family effort. There is no community organising to do, no propaganda to spread (unless of course you want to share this article), and no convincing that needs to happen. Just follow these five simple steps....
- Decorate your home (both interior and exterior) with the theme of the Autumn season, celebrating life and abundance. Scarecrows are fun, and even Jack-O-Lanterns, provided they are not macabre in nature. There should be no macabre decor whatsoever.
- Dress your kids up in the theme of the holy day. It's ALL SAINTS DAY! So think of angels, Saints and Bible characters. (Please no Jesus costumes.) The Blessed Virgin Mary might even be appropriate in some circumstances, but please be careful to be tasteful. The theme of All Saints, is to recognize those who usually don't get much recognition, such as Old Testament and Medieval saints. But it doesn't have to be recognised saints per se.' It could be general Bible characters, such as shepherds and soldiers. It could even be holy men and women from the Church as well, brothers and sisters, fathers and bishops. Of course, dress up in harmless characters of a non-religious sort would be acceptable too, so long as it celebrates life (all life) in some way. The possibilities are endless. Just avoid the occult and macabre.
- Go ahead and give out candy to the kids instead of literature. There is no need to turn the day into an opportunity to spread propaganda. Keep in mind, that many parents will simply throw literature away when they go through their bag, that is, if the kids haven't thrown it away already.
- Avoid 'haunted houses' and scary attractions, attending church bizarres and festivities instead. In a comment below, reader Jonathan Prester shared a tradition in his parish wherein Catholic liturgy and prayers are given by his priest in a local cemetery on Halloween night, complete with torches (lanterns), incense and vestments. Perhaps something like this could be organised in your parish to reclaim the true meaning of All Hallows Eve.
- Finally, stop calling it Halloween. Start using the more proper (and ancient) term "All Hallows Eve" or just "All Hallows" for short.