The Mystery & Modern Mayhem of Halloween

This isn’t one of those rabid, puritanical attacks on Halloween and all of its accouterments by a socially maladjusted homeschooling father whose introverted children aren’t allowed to have any fun.

Nor is it one of those articles that grants you license to send your kids out to participate in activities that, somewhere deep in your heart of hearts, you suspect they shouldn’t go anywhere near. Perhaps your conscience is prodding you about this. Maybe your mind did a double-take today when you passed the local county fairgrounds advertising their perennial favorite, THE SEVEN STORIES OF HELL, “haunted” house that every self-respecting kid must pass through at least once this season. This could be evidence that something is amiss in the way we are celebrating Halloween.

The evidence is also on display in the array of articles that crop up, year after year, explaining the “Catholic origins” of Halloween and how the myriad of modern Halloween activities are actually unobjectionable, even good, for everybody. If folks weren’t bothered by at least some of the elements of this weird secular holiday and its practices, then nobody would want to read the articles, and the ink and digital bytes would not continue to pour forth. The fact is that there is a yawning (and growing) chasm between the authentic Catholic celebration of this awesome Feast and the modern American version of Halloween.

A Secular Holiday?!  

That’s right, I called Halloween a secular holiday. It most emphatically is. That is not to say that it does not have some Catholic roots, which I concede. But, then again, so does every Protestant sect.

Depending upon what author and history you consider authoritative, some of our modern practices may have an early pagan genesis from both the Celts (and their “Samhain” festival) and the Romans (bobbing for apples and drinking apple cider). Moreover, most of the modern practices associated with Halloween are not specifically Catholic in origin. They derive from a variety of secular, superstitious, and even anti-catholic influences, including: an Irish custom of carving out turnips and placing a lighted candle inside to ward off evil spirits; an English Protestant tradition of going door-to-door and demanding beer and cakes – a “trick-or-treat” intended to mock Guy Fawkes and insult his fellow Catholics; and a greeting card industry decision to include witches as one of the centerpieces of the festival during the 1800’s.

Now, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the Church borrowing from practices that have as their source some secular, pagan, or even anti-Catholic belief system, as it has done throughout the centuries with such things as wedding rings, Easter eggs, and the Christmas tree. However, such customs adopted must clearly also be Baptized in the Faith if we wish to retain them without undue influence of the secularism or paganism they originally represented. That is to say, the interior meaning of these customs and traditions must be transformed and conformed to Christ, given new and more profound meanings, and they must assist us on the path toward salvation.

But what about those Catholic roots?

It is easy to discern the distinctively Catholic nature and origins of Halloween. The name itself is merely a contraction of the term, “All Hallows Evening,” or Hallowe’en, and refers to the Vigil of All Hallows Day (more generally known as All Saints Day). All Saints Day, a feast commonly celebrated in the early Church, was mentioned by St. Ephrem the Syrian during a homily in the fourth century. Much later, during the eight century, Pope Saint Gregory III consecrated a chapel in the Basilica of St. Peter to all the saints, fixing the anniversary as November 1st. Pope Gregory IV later extended this feast to the entire Church. The Vigil we call Halloween, then, is clearly Catholic, perhaps peculiarly so. Only the Catholic Church lays claim to divinely revealed knowledge of specific individuals who have “won the race” and are in heaven. Only the Church celebrates their victory in Christ with such reverence and rejoicing. Furthermore, only the Church recognizes that there are souls continuing the process of purification and sanctification in the temporary suffering we call Purgatory – but this recognition and associated doctrine has little to do with the Vigil of the Feast of All Saints, a fact that is often overlooked by those who argue for a full participation in the modern secular Halloween observances.

Fear, Fun, Derision, Delusion

While there are a variety of nuances, the proponents of full participation in the modern distortion of the Catholic holiday can be grouped, generally, into five categories:

1)      Halloween is the tradition of the Church, and must be preserved. Sure, Halloween is a tradition of the Church. Of course, it must be preserved. But this begs the very question at hand: How? How are we to preserve this tradition? In what manner shall we celebrate this sacred vigil? Perhaps we could make a visit to the aforementioned “haunted house,” where we can rub elbows with Baal and those who are pretending (only pretending, we hope) to be his priests? Or perhaps we should instead take our children to visit to our local parish, where they can receive the Living God, “Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity,” and even have the opportunity to rub elbows with one of his holy priests, a priest forever in the line of Melchizedek.

2)      The Scary and the Spooky serve a righteous and definite purpose. One article that takes this approach as its departure point is, in fact, entitled “The Fun of Fear.” Another author says that if we skip the scary and go straight for the glory, we are cheating ourselves. The implication is that, if in a celebration to honor the Saints in heaven and their Glorious Master we omit a night of homage to the shadowy and sinister, we will be missing out on…the “fun” of being afraid? This same author goes on to say, “we must know the cold and darkness to recognize the light.” This is upside down. We are fashioned in the Imago Dei, and the darkness of sin and death has meaning only insofar as it is a deprivation or absence of the Light of Christ.

Sacred Scripture exhorts us to be not afraid 365 times. When he began his Pontificate, Blessed John Paul II’s first words were “Be not afraid.” Christ’s victory over sin and death frees us from the servitude of fearing them. And this is so much more beautiful, fulfilling, and authentically Catholic than some deliberate quest to participate in the culture of death and fear that is modern secular Halloween.

3)      By dressing in costumes that mimic Satan and his minions, we have the opportunity to mock the damned and even death itself. Perhaps this is so. But to what end? Christ’s victory over death is whole and complete, and we partake in His victory as His adopted sons – so what substantial good do we do by mocking death? And are the damned any more damned by our mockery? Our ridicule does not add to their suffering and pain. And even if it did, one could hardly claim this a charitable desire or dignified effort on our part. Don’t get me wrong, the damned “are wicked beyond recall, and should be looked upon as enemies.” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II, Q.103, A.2) But the damned, be they fallen angels or human beings, are still by their nature, persons created by the Almighty. It seems ignoble that we should spend our time on earth deriding them for choosing to reject Our Lord. In fact, St. Thomas also tells us that derision is a sin distinct from others, noting that “the derider intends to shame the person he derides.” (Ibid, II-II. Q.75, A.1) Finally, we recognize that “imitation is the highest form of flattery.” Regardless of the nobility of intentions, the practical effects in donning the garb of the Enemy may result in an unexpected plunge into the Icarian Sea. Leave the punishment of the damned to the Inscrutable and Eternal Wisdom of the Lord of Heaven and Earth.

4)      We can baptize the secular practices of Halloween by participating in them. As we have observed, the Church has Christened many secular customs and even institutions through the centuries. As we have also observed, this process requires that such practices be made holy, not just co-opted with the spurious claim that they are now Christian simply because we do them too. I am not suggesting that any single secular Halloween ritual is, by itself, intrinsically evil or irredeemable. I do suggest, however, that the zeitgeist of modern Halloween is indistinguishable from the culture of death. Note that I did not merely say it is focused on death and our mortality, like Good Friday or the Divine Mercy Chaplet – healthy, Christ-centered kinds of exercise. Instead, the secular Halloween relishes in death and destruction. The violent, dark culture is becoming increasingly darker and more violent. This is not unexpected, as Blessed Mother Teresa once observed, “…any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want.”

5)      It’s just plain fun. The corollary is, “…and everybody’s doing it.” This same logic brought us the “free love” movement of the 1970’s, from which we still suffer. Adherents of this sophomoric observation need a primer in St. Thomas regarding apparent goods versus the true good.

Rescue Mission – Dynamic Catholic Halloween.

Doff the dresses of the damned. Cast off the candy of the cursed. Erect a hedge against the haunted houses. In short, let’s truly take back the celebration of Halloween. Not by participating in the vapid and even injurious practices that the culture of death insists are natural and harmless. Not by celebrating fictitious ghosts or the very real principalities and powers of hell. Not by helping to normalize the senseless, gory, and even occult practices that have become naughtily intertwined with modern secular Halloween.

We already have our days and observances for remembering death and the Church Suffering. Every Friday is, in fact, a day to focus and unite our prayers with the Passion and Death of our Lord. We venerate the Crucifix. We pray the Sorrowful Mysteries. We abstain from meat (that’s right, it’s not just for Lent, kiddos – check out Canon 1250-1253). We offer acts of penitence and prayer. We also annually observe Lent, with Ash Wednesday and forty days of penitential practices. Don’t forget both the Penitential Rite and the prayers for the faithful departed offered at every Mass. Finally, we have the appropriate day to remember the holy, suffering souls in purgatory – All Souls Day – a mere 24 hours after All Saints.

Make Vigil of All Saints Day what Holy Mother Church intends – a celebration of the Mystery of the Victory of the Saints in Christ! Encouraging your children to outfit themselves as Holy Men and Women, learn about their lives, and imitate their virtues is not, as one author rather irreverently remarks, a “pantomime of the saints.” It is a dynamic and hands-on way of teaching them about the Church’s “Hall of Fame.”

This Halloween, make a commitment to make it count. Attend Mass as a family and receive the Holy Eucharist, the Source and Summit of our faith. Afterward, host a parish or multi-family festival where guests participate in games, share a meal, learn something about the Faith, and try to guess each other’s Saintly identities. You might even pass out some treats – Catholics are allowed to eat candy too! Even better, invite some friends to the celebration who might otherwise never learn the truth about Halloween. Maybe your next Halloween will be an opportunity for someone’s eternal salvation.

C.W. Lyons

By

C.W. Lyons is the author of The Catholic Bible Concordance, and holds Master’s Degrees in Theology and Executive Fire Service Leadership. He puts food on the family table as the Fire Chief at a career fire department. With his wife and seven children, he homeschools in relative peace in Northeast Ohio, and enjoys volleyball, the outdoors, and books (especially theology and philosophy).

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  • MotherOf10

    Thank you ,Mr. Lyons, for an informative article. Although I agree that we should shun anything having to do with the devil (e.g.Devil costumes), do you feel that we should not participate in any fashion with even Trick or Treating? To help counter the neighbor’s devilish decorations across the street from our home, we give out treats that have included Christian messages (e.g.pencils that have “Jesus loves you” on them) to the trick-or-treaters. Would you recommend that we stop this? Shouldn’t we take this opportunity to evangelize instead of just rejecting it? Shouldn’t we “become all things to all people?” Thanks for your help!

  • Donna

    Mr Lyons, Your cutting remarks about homeschoolers demonstrate that you are
    ignorant and at best, lack charity

  • MelodyLyons

    Donna – I think you misunderstand. He IS a homeschooling father who is a staunch proponent of the goodness of home education. His remark is a tongue-in-cheek dig on common misperceptions about homeschoolers.

  • Mary

    Donna, I’m not sure if you realize that they are indeed a homeschooling family and that his first line was an attempt to dissipate any presumptions by people who may read his article who DO have ignorant prejudices against homeschooling.

  • John

    “Nor is it one of those articles that grants you license to send your kids out to participate in activities that, somewhere deep in your heart of hearts, you suspect they shouldn’t go anywhere near.”

    Somewhere deep in our hearts? You don’t know my heart. Sir, perhaps you should work on your condescending and arrogant tendencies.

  • Mary

    The other day I was trying to explain to my nine year old why people dress up and decorate in the grotesque and scary for Halloween. In an attempt to provide a “balanced” argument, I mentioned that some of our Catholic friends do it because in the past people would try to scare away the evil spirits before the feast day. His response: “So to show that they reject them and don’t want to be like them, they dress up like them? That doesn’t make any sense.” And I didn’t have much of an argument to come back with :)
    I really appreciate the discussion on this that focuses more on a rational argument than an emotional one. I think one of my biggest reasons for forgoing the secular side of Halloween is merely a practical one. It doesn’t do my credibility well in the eyes of my children if I tell them we are celebrating a huge solemnity in the Church and then spend more of my time and energy and resources honoring Halloween, even if it were in an innocent just for fun way as it would be for us. I suppose I could try to do both as some do but I just know that with the limited time and energy I have, the more I spent on Halloween the less I would spend on All Saints’ and for me as a Catholic, a solemnity of the Church takes precedence.

  • catholicexchange

    Hello C.W.,

    Since I am the author of the article entitled “The Fun of
    Fear” that you mention, I hope you don’t mind me chiming in and taking a contrary position.

    You brought up your desire to avoid being “puritanical”, and I certainly don’t doubt you, but I still think you inadvertently create a puritanical kind
    of false choice (akin to claiming that a person must be either a teetotaler or
    a drunk) by leaving the reader with the impression that Halloween, for a
    faithful Catholic, must be either A) going to Mass or B) going to the most
    depraved Haunted House ever constructed to “rub elbows with the priests of
    Baal”. I can tell you, my family and I have loads of spooky fun every year and our elbows are 100% Baal-free! That is true for most people I know, who are just regular moms and dads who refuse to let their children wallow in evil but recognize that there is a basic element of good, harmless fun in Halloween. I think I do a decent job of rationally exploring the aspects of that basic element in my article, and it might help the overall discussion if you included a link to it and to the one by the other guy you mention so readers can check them out for themselves.

    Anyway, thanks for the article, and God bless. –Dan Lord

  • C.W. Lyons

    Dear John,
    You’re right…on both counts. I definitely need to continue to try to overcome my pride and the vices that accompany it. Mercy, Lord Jesus!
    Also, I am not claiming to know what is in each and every heart of my readers. However, many have shared with me their reservations regarding the Halloween practices I discuss. I was merely using this general expression as a rhetorical departure point.

  • Feather Begone

    thank you for this article. My family and I do not celebrate Halloween. My kids love to dress up for All Saints Day. I am not very fond of where Halloween comes from. Therefore i choose not to celebrate. As my 8 year daughter has always said every year since she was 4 ” Why would God scare children on Halloween? Because he wouldn’t. God loves me and would not scare me. So, I do not like Halloween. It is for Satan”

  • Moises Barraza

    Guys, why has anyone not mentioned that Halloween is one of the most important holidays according to the Satanic bible, and according to the founder of the church of Satan? The fact that the only time in my life in which I celebrated Halloween as a pagan holiday, was when I was weakest in my personal relationship with the Lord, makes me really wonder about how “OK” it is to “mingle in” the paganism into my own life. This is not to accuse, judge, or make a statement about anyone else. I only know my own heart, and that, with difficulty and with lots of Divine help. Although I can imagine it may be possible for many good people to celebrate it out of ignorance without having any sinful intention or issue with conscience, once they know what I have just shared, why would anyone want to risk, and again, I only say, risk their children’s spiritual well being? My thought is that once one knows where the enemy is, why would anyone take their loved ones as close to him as possible? My personal opinion is that engagement in the practice without a clear reflection on what are the risky behaviors and how to avoid them and create in their children a conscience about them, is negligent. I appreciate the mother who shared that she could not explain the practice to her child, so she chose not to engage in it. I know we live in a day and age when we are not supposed to “judge” anyone or hurt anyone’s feelings especially when it spoils the fun. However, I think satan would like nothing more than to walk freely amongst our lives, our government, and our children, without fear of being “judged”, or in essence, “called out”, because after all, he is the master of “fun” that destroys and pollutes the soul. The only point I am trying to make here, is that we need to be conscious of the fact that as Christians, and especially as Catholics, we have a spiritual enemy. Nothing to be paranoid about, but nothing to be ignorant about either. So this is my attempt to “call out” the satanic side of Halloween, for each to discern accordingly. Perhaps a recent ex-Satanist, like Zachary King, would be helpful to contact if anyone would like further empirical confirmation on the satanic side of Halloween. His most recent contact information is provided here: mysticforGod@yahoo.com or (802) 578-6554. Peace to all, and may the Holy Spirit help each of us to follow His plan for our lives. Amen!

  • C.W. Lyons

    Okay, so I guess the huge avatar in my last comment serves to emphasize me need for humility! :-)
    Forgive this stumble as I am just learning the processes of signing up and signing in so that I can try to respond intelligently to comments!

  • C.W. Lyons

    First, I take it that your name is a reference to your family. Thank you for your awesome Pro-Life witness!

    Also, thank you for your question, which is a keen insight and precisely one of the issues that underpins this entire discussion. Namely, how do we proceed to be “in the world but not of the world,” and just how do we go about “making disciples of all nations” while maintaining our unique identity as followers of Christ?

    There are many right and good answers to these questions, depending upon circumstances, personalities, cultural influences, etc.

    However, one of my points is that the modern version of Halloween is morally bankrupt. It is too closely associated with the Culture of Death. My opinion is that our participation in these practices lends credence to them, especially when our neighbors and friends know that we are devout Catholics.

    Your custom of including Christian messages with treats is certainly laudable and, I pray with you, has had some impact on the little lives it has touched. Let me emphasize – I do not believe that this type of approach is sinful or evil.

    However, I do propose that our witness is still much more effective (culturally) and efficacious (spiritually) when we instead commit our energy, actions, and time to the sacred Feast of All Saints. Let’s participate visibly and outwardly in the sacred rituals and holy customs of our Faith, and influence the culture by our witness!

  • C.W. Lyons

    Dear Feather – I love this wisdom from a 4-year-old! Praise Jesus for the Grace which He has bestowed upon her!
    And I also praise the Lord for the great parental guidance with which He has blessed this precious little one.
    Keep up the fantastic work.

  • Michael J. Lichens

    It’s me, your faithful editor and I have thus placed a link to your article, Dan.

    I agree, you do a fantastic job.

    This is a conversation that happens each year and I think it’s a good one to have. Thanks for participating.

  • CatherineA

    I agree except for this: I am not convinced that many kids enjoy dressing up as saints. It simply isn’t the same as dressing up as super-heroes, storybook characters, etc. With all due respect to the saints, it’s lame. When I was a kid, and Halloween was not nearly so truly sinister as it is today, after all the free candy the best part was picking a costume. I think we could keep this tradition, leaving out the evil ones (witches, ghosts, devils, chainsaw-carrying murderers, etc.), and still have plenty of wholesome fun.

  • Pogue Mahone

    Halloween is the holiest day of the YR for occultists and in our family we refer to it as “Satan’s Day” and have nothing to do with it. The Bible tells us to stay away from everything occult and every form of evil. There is no way to ” redeem” anything that is Satanic in nature and Christians have no business in celebrating such a sinister dark holiday and should know better. Halloween is like celebrating Satan’s birthday. Christmas is for God and Halloween is for Satan.

  • CatherineA

    Lighten up, John. I don’t think the statement was necessarily directed to every person who would read the article. And speaking of reading hearts, how is it that you seem convinced the author is condescending and arrogant? Most of us did not see it that way. And even if you think it, why did you have to say it? It’s so uncharitable, and it disappointments me when we treat each other this way, especially in a public forum.

  • CatherineA

    Donna, that you find it acceptable to publicly rebuke someone as “ignorant” and lacking in charity is disappointing, and is an action that itself clearly lacks charity. Since other commenters have pointed out that the author himself is a homeschooler, that demonstrates that you, yourself, are apparently ignorant. Let us please act like Christians in these forums.

  • catholicexchange

    Hey, that’s great–thanks, Michael! And again, all the best to C.W.–here’s to a little healthy Catholic disagreement!

  • Lee

    What great stuff. I have always enjoyed Halloween with all the excitement that goes along with it. My family always made it to church for Mass, too. What I never appreciated about Halloween was evidence of those who did do the devil’s work by destroying things or making messes left for others to clean up. Broken pumpkins and smashed eggs all over property. Things must be getting gentler towards our neighbors, because that sort of evil seems to be disappearing in some areas. Maybe our Catholic families are truly aware of the true meaning of having fun with no intentions of doing the devil’s work. I have been seeing some adorable costumes. Wait a minute, are we talking about little kids here or over grown, over baring adults.

  • Donna

    CatherineA, The other commenters comments were not there when I first put my reply on the internet. There was no indication to me that this man is a homeschooler. Also, it was not clear that his comments were tongue in cheek. I do agree that I should not have called him
    ignorant and for that I apologize. However, since it is not clear in the article that he is a homeschooler it did make his statement look uncharitable.
    Donna

  • Donna

    CatherineA, The other commenters comments were not there when I first put my reply on the internet. There was no indication to me that this man is a homeschooler. Also, it was not clear that his comments were tongue in cheek. I do agree that I should not have called him
    ignorant and for that I apologize. However, since it is not clear in the article that he is a homeschooler it did make his statement look uncharitable.
    Donna

  • C.W. Lyons

    Well said Mary. And I am with you regarding the “only so many hours in the day to get things done” situation!

  • C.W. Lyons

    Dear Pogue – I completely agree that we must avoid everything occult and every form of evil. This only makes sense as followers of Christ.

    I do think that there is legitimate debate and disagreement about the origins of the practices, customs, and even history of Halloween. For an interesting and balanced discussion on this, I might recommend a talk by Matthew Arnold entitled “Trick Or Treat.” It is available from St. Joseph Communications here: http://saintjoe.net/MA7

    Whatever the origins and history of Halloween, however, I still think it is clear that most of the modern practices are pretty nasty. It is even clearer that our time is better spent on the rich history and Sacred Traditions of our Faith.

  • C.W. Lyons

    Dear Moises – I love this quote: “we need to be conscious of the fact that as Christians, and especially as Catholics, we have a spiritual enemy.” You are so right, and we need to be always cognizant of the fact that we are engaged in spiritual warfare!

    Please do see my reply to Pogue, above, regarding the history of some Halloween practices.

    Keep up the good work of fighting against the principalities and powers that wish to deceive us!

  • Famijoly

    Very good article on Halloween, one of the best I’ve read. It’s probably your last name that makes the difference. LOL
    With your permission, I’d like to place the segment “Rescue Mission — Dynamic Catholic Halloween” in the parish bulletin and then read from it during the announcements at Sunday Masses. Hopefully it will give a boost to parishioners to take part in our October 31 schedule: 6:30-8:30 p.m. — “Trunk or Treat” in the church parking lot, where families or individuals decorate the back ends of their vehicles to present the life of a saint and are dressed as the saint; in addition to giving out sweet treats, they give out a medal or holy card of that saint; the children have been encouraged to dress as saints as well. 8:30-9:30 — Martyrs Walk. Groups of half a dozen or so are taken in tour groups room to room through the education center and in each room a martyr tells his or her story in costume.

  • C.W. Lyons

    Dear Catherine – I think that we as parents bear some responsibility to help children see the beauty, joy, and even coolness of dressing up as Saints.
    Is it what all their peers are doing? Probably not. Maybe this will be a sacrifice for some children at first…but this is not all bad either. Then, in time, and with some mentoring and maturity, even those who do not see the immediate value might come to understand the incredible richness of this practice as opposed to the vacuity of the secular custom.

    Also, as I mentioned, by our decision to forego the modern secular practices, we are not contributing to the legitimacy of the entire venture by our participation.

  • C.W. Lyons

    Dear Dan – I’m glad you commented, and enjoyed your article on this same subject (which I see our wonderful editor has now hyperlinked).

    I understand the perspective you articulate about how there is a spectrum of approaches to most of the modern practices we associate with the secular celebration of Halloween. In other words, I know that you (nor likely anybody else who bothers to visit CatholicExchange!) would allow your children to engage in anything that you would perceive as even remotely demonic.

    That being said, I still contend that these secular practices – however benign or whitewashed they may appear – end up distracting us from the Truth and Beauty that is the Catholic Faith, especially on what is supposed to be the Vigil of All Saints. You mention “spooky fun.” I just don’t find that anywhere in Sacred Scripture or Sacred Tradition. When we participate in these secular Halloween customs, our very participation also tends to legitimize the entire enterprise. As believers who proclaim our faith and try to spread the Gospel, folks will look to see what we are doing and how we are acting.

    I say, let’s be salt and light…a city on a hill. Let’s shine forth the glory and majesty of God and all His Saints in heaven by pointing to them overtly and directly on the Vigil of the Feast of All Saints!

  • C.W. Lyons

    Amen, and back at you!

  • C.W. Lyons

    Dear Father – I absolutely love that you encourage and sponsor such an event at your parish! I praise God for the gifts of holy boldness and wisdom with which He has blessed you!!!

    I would be very pleased if you are able to use an excerpt from my article to further this venture. Please be sure to contact the editor at CatholicExchange for any permissions needed from them, and for their rules regarding attribution.

    I take it we have a shared surname? :-)

  • Famijoly

    Yes, Famijoly is a contraction for FAther MIchael JOseph LYons. God bless you and keep you.

  • QuoVadisAnima

    Over the years my kids have dressed up as St Patrick, St Kateri Tekakwitha, St Elizabeth of Hungary, St Francis of Assisi, St Michael the Archangel, St Henry II and St. George. They absolutely loved it AND they got to dress up as knights, kings, queens, angels, indians, monks, bishops, etc. It really got them to thinking about what exactly is a saint and what does a saint look like – when they realized all the options, their imaginations took off & we had a blast exercising God’s gift of creativity. (And no, I don’t sew, lol!)

    We play games at home, when our homeschool group isn’t doing one, like guess the saint & saint bingo & more (tons of wonderful ideas available on the internet) with candy for prizes – except the winner gets to pick what candy all of us would eat so that everyone gets to enjoy, since all Heaven rejoices when a new saint wins their crown.

    Our very secular neighbor across the street was horrified when she first learned that we were depriving our kids of “real Halloween” — so I had to laugh when she was at our house & saw them in their costumes on that day and heard their excited, happy enthusiasm about how much fun it was.

    When my youngest really, really, really wanted a spiderman costume, I looked for one during clearance time and he got to run around the house & be spiderman to his heart’s content, no secular Halloween stuff necessary.

  • QuoVadisAnima

    It should also be mentioned that the more ‘innocent’ side of Halloween – getting as much candy as you can and gorging on as much of it as you can – actually is effectively a celebration & encouragement of the capital sins of greed and gluttony (and sometimes envy when a sibling or friend got more candy or scored something you didn’t) when we are supposed to be celebrating those who with God’s grace successfully conquered vice with virtue – whose paths we are called by the Lord to follow.

  • C.W. Lyons

    Dear QuoVadisAnima – you highlight another important point regarding the some of the dangers of “trick-or-treating.” What a contrast between what the world tempts us with and what all the Saints in heaven are praying us toward!
    Thank you for your faithfulness and excellent example!

  • Barb

    I had a talk with a priest about Hallowe’en and these are his words, “Hallowe’en is a community event that brings neighbours and friends closer together and should be treated as such”. We can celebrate the good of Hallowe’en without taking part in the dark side of Hallowe’en. In other words, you can go door-to-door with your kids, just avoid the scary houses, avoid the appearances of evil. Dress up as something good or neutral, you want to glorify God and not Satan. Ask Jesus and St. Michael the Archangel to protect you and your kids before you go out. Do not say, “trick or treat” when you receive the candy, that’s superstition, but do say, “Thank you” when you receive the candy. When you get home, ask Jesus to bless the candy before you eat it, and it is a good idea to ask Jesus to bless the candy before you give it out to the little people who come to your door. You do this ahead of time, as you don’t want to offend those who don’t share your faith, but by eating candy that has been blessed by Jesus, they are protected from the harmful effects of it. St. Paul tells us to accept the good, but reject the bad, and this applies to most things in life, it is called a healthy balance. We don’t have to be afraid of Hallowe’en, but we do have to be on our guard. God will protect us if we put our faith and trust in Him. I also emphasize to my kids Hallowe’en is the eve of All Saints Day, and we remember those who have gone on before us, say prayers for them, and offer up Masses for them, as Masses are the highest form of prayer. As the late great pope John Paul II has said, “Be not afraid”.

  • Angelica

    This is truly beautiful, you can feel the spirituality in this words. God bless

  • Deoacveritatimyfaithsustainsm

    I read in another forum that someone was saying that in the 1950′s Catholics would give out Holy Cards instead of candy.
    I think it is a great idea!
    Maybe we should go back to doing that, and on that night pray the Rosary or the Litany of the Saints for these poor souls who have got in this horrid habit of celebrating the dark side which is what Halloween encourages.

  • Daniel R. Miller

    Dressing up as some martyred saints could be rather gruesome in appearance. St. Dennis — who reportedly, after he was beheaded, picked up his head and walked to Paris — comes to mind. Also Sts. Sebastian and Barnabas come to mind.

  • C.W. Lyons

    Dear Daniel – you are certainly right about some of the costumes inquisitive and creative kids might come up with…our Saints’ lives are filled with some pretty grim ways in which they were tortured and killed. How about poor St. Isaac Jogues with his fingers chewed off and a tomahawk in his neck?!

    Dressing up as the Saints surely doesn’t have to be dull or mundane, and the exact same point could be illustrated to our children about emulating the lives of these same Saints. If we follow Jesus as radically as they did, our lives will be anything but boring!

  • John

    Dear Dan,

    You hit the nail on the head. I thought the article would be balanced as promised but it ended up being the opposite. Our parish holds an annual “trunk and treat” event for Halloween, many of the kids costumes are “saints” but some are not. Plenty of fun, wholesome things to do such as bobbing for apples, connecting the Catholic origins to the event via announcements, Fall festival decorations, etc. And of course, the both the Vigil Mass and the next day we have the “parade of saints” with our children connecting the Solemnity. Like the early Church, we are not afraid of the culture but Christianize it. Whether it’s Christmas trees or pumpkins, Christ can be integrated. A gun can be murder weapon or a tool for hunting. The beauty (or the abuse) is in the eyes, heart and the handling of it. Most of the people on this list should challenge themselves to make Halloween part of their parish culture and fully Christianize it, reclaim it rather than RUN from it, and even use it as an evangelization opportunity for their local community. I believe this is what Jesus did and our new pope is exhorting us to do.

  • Tamar

    As a Catholic who grew up surrounded by Evangelicals, it scares me how much Evangelical thought has crept into Catholic discourse. Halloween as “Satan’s holiday”, birthday cakes for Jesus rather than presents from Santa, I just don’t get it. Catholics are being subsumed by Evangelical culture and they don’t even realize it.
    My two sons will be dressing up as firemen and go door to door within our physical community (ie our neighborhood, not just our faith community) enjoying childhood fantasy, make-believe and the generosity of our neighbors (many of whom are empty nesters yet still take their time and money to make the day special for other people’s children). This is how I celebrated during my Catholic childhood, how my parents celebrated during their Catholic childhoods, and even one of my grandparents during her Catholic childhood. My children also receive presents from Santa just as I did, my parents did and my grandparents did. Four generations of faithful American Catholics, celebrating our American Catholic way.

  • C.W. Lyons

    Dear John – your parish Halloween festival sounds very much like what I’ve recommended as a wholesome Catholic alternative to the secular practices so common in the Culture of Death.
    Note that I did not say we should fear these things, just not participate in them. You imply otherwise.
    You also make the assertion that my article is imbalanced, but provide no evidence for your charge.
    Perhaps a more careful read of the text is in order…

  • C.W. Lyons

    Dear Tamar – you imply that there my article contains influences from Evangelical culture or theology. Where?! Everything I propose has as its source Sacred Scripture or Sacred Tradition. The customs you mention as “Catholic” are merely some very recent traditions of men. I can assure you that your great- great- grandparents would not recognize the secular Halloween customs of today!
    How does “going door to door within [your] physical community” celebrate the Sacred Vigil of the Feast of All Saints?
    And Santa…? If you read the article, you would know that neither Christmas nor Santa Claus were even addressed here.

  • Noelle

    You clearly verbalized what I was thinking….thank you! However, I think his article was balanced and honest. Simply put, how about, if we choose, we put ourselves and our strong faith right smack dab in the middle of these pagan rituals and be the light, the love of Jesus, the example for others to see. I feel that the more we shut ourselves out and shun away from these things, the less we are able to show “The Way” to those who need it most. I can tell you that 99% of all non-Catholics will view shunning Halloween entirely as a shun against them. It’s not true, it’s not justification to do anything one way or another, it just is. We have a bad reputation as Catholics as being elitists. We can get mad at that. Or we can be the one to prove them wrong with our love, our light and our acceptance. Of them. Not the sin. So much easier to do from the middle of the den of sinners than the sidelines. I say, jump in and be the good example that they long to follow. I think both you and Dan clearly stated some really valid points. Great topic!!

  • C.W. Lyons

    Dear Noelle – thanks for your comments. I agree that we Catholics need to be out there in the world evangelizing and brining the Good News to all. However, just as it says in Ecclesiastes 3, the Lord has appointed times for all things. It just so happens that the Lord Himself, through His Holy Catholic Church, has appointed Halloween as a time for giving glory to Him through His Saints in Heaven.
    There are plenty of good and decent cultural traditions that do not interfere or collide with one of the Sacred Feasts of our Faith — Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Veterans’ Day, Labor Day, to name just a few examples. Let’s celebrate these and others to show our solidarity with our fellow Americans.
    However, when it comes to one of only a half-dozen days in the year that the Church deems solemn enough to proclaim it a Holy Day of Obligation, I say that we pay greater honor ad attention to our liturgical calendar than the secular one…even if it means offending a few folks along the way.

  • Fred del

    Way to go for speaking the Truth in Love.
    I do not think that Jesus would wear costumes which glorify the gory when He died so that we might live in victory over the powers of darkness He came to destroy. Continue to be a bold witness for the Kingdom of God.

  • Lisa_Ann

    It seems to me that your asking us to hide in our homes and church’s. Our Holy Father Pope Francis asked for us to get out of our Church’s and into the streets and make noise…beautiful noise and proclaim and share the Good News. He said to go against the tide. What a better way to swim against the tide, dressed up as angles and saints and be a witness to All Saints Day, after we go to daily Mass and prayers etc… Truly, we can’t keep the JOY of the Gospel to ourselves if we want to spread God’s LOVE and light to a world in darkness and pain. Our Lord conquered the devil…God is stronger than evil.

  • Lisa_Ann

    Amen!! Barb…I have eleven children and we go door to door also and we too dress up as angles and saints. Our Holy Father asked us to get out of our church’s and go into the streets and proclaim the Good news, going against the tide. (not hiding)….Truly we have the coolest pro-life and Christian pumpkins all over the internet to glorify our Lord and our front yards and our joy should light up the world in pain and in darkness every day and night. God is stronger than evil.

  • Lisa_Ann

    Amen!! Barb…I have eleven children and we go door to door also and we too dress up as angles and saints. Our Holy Father asked us to get out of our church’s and go into the streets and proclaim the Good news, going against the tide. (not hiding)….Truly we have the coolest pro-life and Christian pumpkins all over the internet to glorify our Lord and our front yards and our joy should light up the world in pain and in darkness every day and night. God is stronger than evil.

  • C.W. Lyons

    Dear Lisa Ann – I’m not suggesting that we hide at all. In fact, I do recommend that we celebrate this Sacred Feast heartily and in with a proper liturgical perspective. Who says that celebrating one of the holiest Feasts of the liturgical calendar with your parish family is “hiding?” If that is the case, then you are hiding at every Sunday morning Mass instead of going downtown and ministering to the poor on the streets…you see the illustration by absurdity here.
    Also, by refusing to participate in the practices of the Culture of Death that secular Halloween embodies, we are not lending legitimacy to that perspective. Instead, we are truly shining forth the Light of Christ in our authentic Catholic witness.

  • C.W. Lyons

    Dear Barb – we obviously have some disagreements about approach, but I have to caution that when you write, “…by eating candy that has been blessed by Jesus, they [children] are protected from the harmful effects of it” sounds like it borders on superstition. I’m all for praying over our food but, if you eat french fries every day, you’re still probably going to get atherosclerosis (unless, of course, Our Lord wishes to miraculously intervene every time you eat…)

  • C.W. Lyons

    Dear Fred – thanks for your encouragement and valiant proclamation of the Truth!

  • Lisa_Ann

    no your illustration is absurd of hiding at every Sunday Mass (or daily if your like many of us)….for Holy Mass is to be celebrated in a sacred Holy Place because Jesus instituted the Mass to be that way and therefore we are not hiding…in fact all are welcome to come to Holy Mass…the door is wide open………Not so with any ordinary celebration. …… You seem to want to hand over Halloween night outside in the streets to Satan as if he now owns it, by saying quote: “by refusing to participate in the practices of the Culture of Death that secular Halloween embodies”…..and truly you are not witnessing to All Saints day, when you are hiding out in the hall of your church or somewhere other than where Halloween (All Saints Day) as always been ….going door to door……Dressed as witnesses as Jesus and the saints……proclaimed the good news in the streets…..Halloween has always been in the streets at night and we need to light it up………the light overcomes the darkness………Pray for courage….. I know many people who are afraid to come out as if God is not stronger than evil……..Christ has conquered death and the devil. After Christ, death has lost its sting…..Taylor Marshall says: “10. Don’t call it “Satan’s Holiday”!There are many Christians who have written off Halloween as some sort of diabolical black mass. In reality, it’s the vigil of a Christian holy day: All Hallows’ Eve or All Saints Eve. Has it been corrupted by our culture and consumer market? You bet. However, Christmas has also been derailed by the culture. Does that mean that we’re going hand over Christmas? No way! Same goes for Halloween. The Church does not surrender what rightfully belongs to her – she wins it back! “….. http://taylormarshall.com/2013/10/top-10-christian-halloween-ideas.html

  • C.W. Lyons

    Dear Lisa Ann – too many misunderstandings here for me to correct, but I will try a few:

    -I’m not handing anything over to Satan, and have never called anything “Satan’s holiday.” The Lord of Heaven and Earth reigns supreme, in saecula saeculorum! Amen.

    -Having a party with a (parish) family is not hiding.

    -Halloween has not “always been…going door to door.” “Trick-or-treat” is a very recent invention.

    -I do pray for courage, but not as one who is “afraid to come out as if God is not stronger than evil.”

    -I’ve not written off Halloween “as some sort of diabolical black mass.” I’m suggesting we celebrate it as the Church has indicated we celebrate the Vigil of a Sacred Feast.

    Please, re-read the original article. Most of your concerns have already been covered.

  • Lisa_Ann

    My eleven children go to public school and we have a Halloween parade at the school and the children all dress up. We have to be clever witnesses with JOY to the real meaning of Halloween and every Holy Day.. We can’t hide…………. We have to put on an outfit that glorify’s God, HIs angels and His saints….openly and publicly and my children have no problem witnessing with joy and peace of the true meaning of the Holy Days……..Same goes for Saint Patrick’s day…..now called Patty’s day or Patrick’s day…they leave off the Saint and send out four leaf clovers. Our children are asked to wear green. .We still wear green OPENLY all day in the streets and at school and we make sure we don’t leave SAINT Patrick out ….for we make green three leaf clovers with gold string to wear around our necks with Saint Patrick’s prayer for us on one side, and the true meaning of the Holy Trinity with the words real bold: Father, Son and Holy Spirit written on the other side. Our pagan Leprechaun projects that every class has to make, that have replaced Saint Patrick…are centered on the Holy Day it is. Our leprechaun has Saint Patrick’s face and follows the shiny path he must (we even have had the path beautiful mysteries of the Rosary lined in gold) …..to the end of a rainbow…but instead of the pot of gold …..our leprechaun finds a Catholic Church with an open door with a gold monstrance with the face of the Sacred Heart of Jesus…..etc… We have to be clever……..but witnesses to the true mean of EVERY Holy day…..SAINT Valentines day not Valentine’s day with our cards centered on the LOVE of Jesus and Mary….(with maybe a sticker of Mother Mary holding baby Jesus) in the center of our hearts made with lace. .Many people love the cards too…., It is Merry Christmas (not winter vacation) and praise God that it spreads like candles to candles….it is Saint Nicholas not Santa Claus…,and we get to bring in our Catholic Saint Nicholas videos.. Easter (not Spring vacation) A baby in the womb, not a glob of flesh,…… Jesus’s presence in the Eucharist,in every tabernacle of the world not some symbol and we make sure that our mission projects proclaim His love THEN AND NOW still reigning in every Tabernacle of the world……….etc…etc… etc…..We live in the world daily and are surrounded by people who hate the Catholic Church but Jesus died for them and we have no other choice but to bring the Good news with joy………..We are NOT handing over anything to the world or Satan…..Every day is a HOLY Day for Jesus and we try our best to make it shine forth….no matter how secular our culture trys to be…..truly Halloween was to be celebrated in the streets not in the church hall and we have every right to celebrate it as Holy as possible in the public square no matter how secular it is, we are not.

  • Lisa_Ann

    I hope you can read this C.W. Lyons for the Church has not indicated we all have to keep our celebration of the Vigil of All Saints Day to ourselves and that we must not joyfully dress up as Jesus, Mary and the angels and saints for the glory of God’s Kingdom in the streets (as we do Nativity sceenes, Easter plays etc). We must bring Jesus and Mary’s love ,,,their two hearts (that they lived in the Holy Rosary) and that all the saints imitated perfectly to a world that is in sin and darkness …in our ever day lives……This is a great article….I hope you will enjoy…We all are differnet and not the same and the Church knows this. That is why there are so many different types of saints and orders….yet we all are one in Jesus. (through Mary) http://www.catholic.com/blog/jon-sorensen/halloween-or-samhain

  • Nanda

    wow! You seem really mad about that issue! Maybe celebrating Halloween every year has done something to you soul???

  • Teresa

    Those saints that you mention has never gone after the devil or join the evil spirits in party….they were attacked by them…Teresa of Avila warns us really well, about the silent works of devil and how parents should be more careful. Please read the book of her life before mention her holy name.

  • Lisa_Ann

    Listen to Mother Angelica here and especially at to 45:20 and where she thanks the parents who have taught their children these wonderful wonderful feasts days and made a feast day into something Holy and something good and you can do the same….. She suggests to have them in the church’s, families and NEIGHBORHOODS and tells us to raise this feast day up for this day is special ♥ even though we live in a pagan world and let the children see that this day is holy and special. Earlier she says not to go around dressed as demons and demon faces and vampires and evil ….but she says we can take these secular feast days and make it a holy day…..special prayers etc….http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_xzs6kSaB0

  • Lisa_Ann

    Your right Kim …Listen to Mother Angelica here and especially at to 45:20 and where she thanks the parents who have taught their children these wonderful wonderful feasts days and made a feast day into something Holy and something good and you can do the same….. She suggests to have them in the church’s, families AND NEIGHBORHOODS and tells us to raise this feast day up for this day is special ♥ even though we live in a pagan world and let the children see that this day is holy and special. Earlier she says not to go around dressed as demons and demon faces and vampires and evil ….but she says we can take these secular feast days and make it a holy day…..special prayers etc….http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_xzs6kSaB0

  • Lisa_Ann

    Teresa….we must turn the night into day…..truly THY KINGDOM COME ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN….We must bring the joy and the love of God to the world….in pain, sin and darkness….light and salt….Our Holy Father asks us to get out of our Church’s and into the streets and to go against the tide….Listen to Mother Angelica here and especially at to 45:20 and where she thanks the parents who have taught their children these wonderful wonderful feasts days and made a feast day into something Holy and something good and you can do the same….. She suggests to have them in the church’s, families AND NEIGHBORHOODS and tells us to raise this feast day up for this day is special ♥ even though we live in a pagan world and let the children see that this day is holy and special. Earlier she says not to go around dressed as demons and demon faces and vampires and evil ….but she says we can take these secular feast days and make it a holy day…..special prayers etc….Truly, look how many abortion clinics have been shut down because people pray and counsel outside of them….we can pray in front of the Tabernacle and we can also go and proclaim the good news to the world….
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_xzs6

  • Mary

    Lisa, I think that is exactly what Mr. Lyons is proposing – being the salt and light and reclaiming this beautiful solemnity of the Church. The feast day is already there, we don’t need to make it a holy day. I don’t hear the Church saying that we MUST trick or treat but rather that we must celebrate the solemnity. No one is suggesting cowering in a corner.

  • cvcr

    Good work brother.

    Another quote that Catholics must recall is St. John Vianney’s admonition:

    “We either belong entirely to God, or entirely to the world.”
    - St. John Vianney (patrons ain’t of parish priests)

  • cvcr

    I likewise attended a trunk or treat at our parish and it turned out that the parents dressed more like the secular version than the kids! It seems that the parents are the ones in most need of catchesis. A trunk or treat celebration should be Catholic – and should display our identity as Catholics honoring the saints – not the zeitgeist.

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