Halloween and Catholicism: a defense

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Photo by Patrick Vitale

Growing up, I thought Halloween was a celebration of my birthday. As a 7-year-old with a birthday on October 31, that was an understandable misconception. I learned the hard way that my neighbors were not in fact celebrating my birthday with trick-or-treating and pumpkin carving, but I continued to have a love for the holiday. 

At my Catholic elementary school, one of the highlights of the fall semester was the “Boo Bash,” a Halloween party fundraiser for the 8th-grade class. There was a haunted house, a cakewalk and plenty of other fun games for students and families to partake in. 

However, after my class graduated, the Boo Bash was changed to the Fall Festival. The reason for the switch was that my school’s celebration of Halloween had become too secular. 

I became curious about whether my fondness for Halloween was against my faith when I had believed that it wasn’t. 

Was one of my favorite celebrations of the year both anti-Christian and anti-Catholic?

In an article from Franciscan Media, the writer explains how Halloween originated with the ancient Celtic tribes in Ireland, Scotland and Wales. November 1 marked a new year, so they would celebrate the festival of the Lord of the Dead. They believed that the souls of the dead walked among them; thus they would wear masks and make bonfires. 

When the Romans conquered the Celtics, they added their own traditions to honor the Roman goddess of the orchards with bobbing for apples and drinking cider. 

Christianity entered the picture in 835 when Pope Gregory IV moved the celebration of the martyrs, later known as all-saints, to November 1 with the November 2 becoming All Souls Day. Thus, October 31 became All Hallows Eve. 

The purpose of these celebrations was to remember those who died and celebrate the communion of saints. 

Now, this begs the earlier question: is Halloween an anti-Christain and anti-Catholic holiday? My answer is no. 

Halloween evidently has Christian roots, and it is only in the past 20 years that it has become more associated with the occult. We must remember that without Pope Gregory IV’s actions, the holiday would not even exist in its current form! 

The innocent acts of dressing up and trick-or-treating are harmless and acceptable if they are done with positive intentions. 

Halloween becomes objectionable when people delve into the more Satanic and evil practices, such as using Ouija boards and witchcraft. 

It all comes down to intention. If you are celebrating Halloween with the intention of engaging in Satanic or evil actions, then you are crossing into the realm of celebrating Halloween in the wrong way and perverting the holiday’s purpose. 

However, if you are choosing to celebrate Halloween because you enjoy dressing up, spending time with friends and family, eating candy and watching scary movies, then we must believe that is entirely proper and even good.

Freshman Rose Wingert explains, “I think it’s fine to celebrate as long as your costume is not demonic. It is a fun holiday and a great experience as a kid as long as you stay away from the more spiritual side that Halloween is associated with.” 

I think many Catholics can get wary about celebrating a holiday that can come across as the devil-worshippers’ holiday, but we must not give into baseless fears and remember that the true purpose of this holiday is not to worship the devil or partake in dark activities, but rather to prepare to honor lost loved ones. 

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