Year after year, from the middle of October on homes, schools and business are dressed up with colorful, sinister and elaborate decorations using such elements as black cats, sculpted pumpkins, broomsticks, skeletons, ghosts, monsters, bats, we are preparing for Halloween.
That day, millions of children in the United States and in the entire world walk around their neighborhoods excitedly until all hours in order to collect candy and other treats from their neighbors. The most daring will see horror films specially rented for the occasion from video stores, play the Ouija board, try to establish contact with the spirits at a spiritual session or ritual, and maybe even mutilate or kill an animal.
Halloween is a time for parties and costume contests at schools, restaurants, and private homes. It is a day of suspense and horrors in which children are happy to play at ghosts and witches… After all, HALLOWEEN is an innocent, inoffensive party- or at least that is what we’ve thought until now.
Bulletin of Church of The Epiphany
October 29, 2000
Halloween has grown into a major secular holiday in American culture. But for those who don'’ value devotion to the saints, the Eve has become ""ollow" instead of "hallow". Take away the saints and our beliefs about the dignity and destiny of human beings, and the only thing left is pre-Christian superstition regarding the dead.
Among many Christians, there has been concern that things have gotten out of hand. After all, doesn’t Halloween glorify evil? Is it right to send our children out as devil and vampires, or is it better to emphasize the saints, whose nearly forgotten feast day is the reason for Halloween? Hallows is the same word for "holy" that we find in the Lord’s Prayer, and e’en is a contraction of "evening". The word Halloween itself is a shortened form of "All Hallows Eve," the day before All Saints Day. This holiday properly understood and celebrated with all of its fun trappings, can be a way for us to deepen our understanding of our faith. Understanding this is close at hand for Catholics in our love of the communion of saints.
Martyr means "witness."
Until the ninth century the Church celebrated the popular feast of All Saints on May 13, during the season of joy after the Resurrection. This is the light in which we see all the faithful who have died, especially those whose witness to Christ is an inspiration. In 835 the date was deliberately changed to November 1 to Christianize the existing pagan time for remembering the dead—to bring light to the darkness, and hope to the most basic of human fears.
One vigil, two feasts.
Today’s Christians sometimes forget that by the time of Christ many Jews, especially the Pharisees, had a well-developed belief in the resurrection of the dead, which included trust that the prayer of the living could benefit the dead. It was this understanding that, 160 years before, Jesus was born, Judah the Maccabee prayed and offered sacrifice for dead comrades who had sinned: "For if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death"
For the first 1,000 years of Christianity there was no collective memorial for All Souls. Relatives and loved ones were remembered at Mass on the anniversary of their death, or until they passed out of living memory. But by the seventh century monasteries were celebrating an annual Mass for all the deceased of their order, an idea that spread to the laity. About 1048, an influential abbot chose November 2 to commemorate All Souls because it was an obvious companion date and extension of Feast of All Saints. Both days are reminders that all of us, living and dead, are united in a living communion with Christ and one another. In effect, Halloween became one vigil for two feast celebrated by the whole Church.
Death is not cute. Halloween began with martyrs, after all, so strange make up and skull mask is not out of line. Picture, if you will, an All Saints procession led by St. Thomas More with his head tucked under his arm. Our tradition teems with stories of people who endured terrible things—but never let it interfere with an underlying joy and trust in God. (Of course even the saints who weren’t martyred deserve our recognition and imitation).
At Halloween we need to use discernment to separate the symbols, to protect our children from very real dangers, to cut through the customs that contradict our relationship with God. It is precisely because Catholics do believe in the reality of evil that we promise to turn away from "Satan and all his work" in the baptismal rite. Here is a chance for parents (and godparents) to make a good on that promise: Be vigilant about television and video games, do not give warped personalities the publicity they crave, choose carefully if and where your child will trick or treat.
Here, we intend to illustrate to parents, teachers, catechism teachers, and the public in general, the pagan significance of the HALLOWEEN celebration as we know it today, and that it has its roots in sorcery, witchcraft, the occult, and Satanism. Even more, we would like to inspire a recovery of this festival for Christ, by stimulating His children to know Him through the Saints and the Beatified who have come before us along the path of faith. Originally, Halloween was a Christian celebration, and it means, literally, "the Eve of All Saints day."
The Origin of Halloween
Know, Practice and Defend your Faith
Halloween has its origin in the festival of fire, death and darkness, celebrated by the Celtics. The Celtics were a primitive people united by language, customs and religious rituals, inhabiting Great Britain, France, Germany and Ireland.
These people had four social classes: 1.- Druid Priests 2.- Nobility or Warring Class 3.- Commoners 4.- Slaves
They had two big feast a year: 1.- Beltane (may 1st) 2.- Samhain (nov. 1st.) Day of the God of the Dead.
It was the believe of the Celtics that on the First of November, the god Samhain would free all the spirits of the dead and these spirits would go back to their homes of origin and visit their families. Their families had to offer them food and gifts or these spirits would haunt them or punish them. Here is where the phrase "Trick or Treat" comes from.
With the passing of time, the Druid priests, who had great power over the people, began to use these beliefs for their own purpose, began to use these beliefs for their own purpose. Then they would make the people, began to use these beliefs for their own purpose. Then they would take the gifts. So what would happen if they did no receive a gift from a particular house or castle? They would arm themselves with clubs, they would take black cats (superstitious symbol) then they would bewitch and punish the family and their belongings, to include their pets.
If the donation they received was acceptable they would leave at the doorstep a Jack O Lantern, they would light it with oil taken from human sacrifices, which had previously taken place.
During this pagan feast, human and animal sacrifices were performs throwing them in huge bond fires. They would make costumes out of the flesh and would run through the streets screaming from east to west to avoid frightening the spirits.
After Christianity was established, in the year 731 Pope Gregory II trying to "Christianize" this pagan feast changes the date of the Feast of all Saints from May 13 to November 1st. The idea behind the change was to have Christians celebrate our feast beginning on the ideas and confusion has occurred since may Catholics do not know the difference between the Catholic celebration and the pagan ritual.
In the 1600’s with the arrival of the British (in other words the Celtics), these pagan rituals were introduced in the American Colonies. From the beginning these nights were filled with violence to the extent that the authorities would have to double their vigilance. Slowly during the past two centuries, the feast lost its violence until finally becoming a feast for children who, without knowing where the feast came from, take the place of the spirits and Druid priest. We must also take into account that still today in the 20th century, the 31st of October is the most important feast of the year for the Druids and witches of our day.
What is the opinion of our Church?
As previously mentioned, Pope Gregory II tried to Christianize this pagan festival, but did not succeed. The Archbishop of Canterbury also tried to do away with all pagan celebrations on the eve of the Feast of All Saints.
Unfortunately, what we have today is a mixture of our Catholic Tradition and the pagan ritual. Most people cannot distinguish between what proceeds from God and what proceeds from the enemy. Nonetheless, there are split opinions as to whether there should be costume celebrations or not. Our opinion is that if the church found it necessary to do away with these pagan feast years ago, why do we insist in keeping this tradition? Are we to gain something spiritually from this? On the contrary we should search for the truth. Spiritually these feasts have no advantages, much less humanly. We find that in recent years the children are no longer safes, the number of violent incident increase in alarming numbers every year.
We parent, catechist, youth ministers and churchgoers at large, have a Christian responsibility to teach our children .
"Hosea 4:6 My people perish for want of knowledge! Since you have rejected knowledge, I will reject you from my priesthood; since you have ignored the law of your God. I will also ignore your sons".
We believe that all families should celebrate this evening praising the Lord for all the good men and women, which have been, and are, a part of our church. We do not have to wear costumes because holiness is to be lived not to be hidden.
The Feast of all Saints
The Celebration of all Soul's Day
Immediately after All Saint's Day, that is November 2nd, the Church commemorates All Soul's Day. On this day, Catholics visit cemeteries, clean and adorn their family member's tombstones with flowers, and celebrate Mass in their memory.
It is a manifestation of our faith in eternal life and in the resurrection as well as of respect and veneration for our dearly departed. This devotion is in accord with the teachings of the Church, which since the first centuries of Christianity has accompanied the morbid do their death and burial.
The celebration of this solemnity dates back to the 7th Century. Probably, its institution is a reflection of the Feast of All Saints which in the beginning was celebrated in many Western communities on the Sunday after Pentecost. We also know that there were other dates for this celebration, according to the various Christian communities.
Costumes, Games and Contests
According to the Saint your children have chosen, costumes will have to be made. The basic garb will be a tunic to which will be added, according to each case, a scapulary, a rope or belt, a cape, and if it deals with the female religious, a headdress or veil.
Franciscan generally use coffee colors or gray and a rope or chord and the waist. For the Dominican, you should use a white tunic and black scapulary and also, a black belt. Jesuits may be represented with a black tunic or cassock to which black buttons and a neck piece may be added. Religious Carmelite nuns use brown colored habits, a white headdress, and a black veil.
If you are dealing with a Bible hero, you only need a tunic and a cape for the men and for the women you would add a veil. If the Saints elected are secular such as St. Bernadette of Lourdes of St. Maria Goretti, you will only need a long cotton skirt, a simple blouse, a shawl, and a veil to cover the head. You must add a symbol of the person: a palm for the martyrs, a cross, a stuffed animal, a rosary, a white lily, a crosier or a book simulating the Bible.
Here are some examples:
- Biblical personalities.- Moses, Noah, David, King Salomon, Ruth, Esther, Judas the Maccabee, The prophet Daniel, Samson, all the ones from the Old Testament. From the New Testament, we have the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, the shepherds from Bethlehem, the Magi, St. John the Baptist, the Apostles, St. Stephen, St. Paul, and St. Luke, among others.
- The Virgin Mary.- In this case, you can choose one of her different avocations such as: Our Lady of Lourdes, the Virgin of Fatima, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Carmen, the Immaculate Conception, etc. Other possibilities are to choose to be a visionary, such as St. Bernadette of Lourdes, St. Catherine Laboure, the Blessed Juan Diego.
- Biblical race.- use as place markers black gift boxes decorated with a cross. Make two or three teams, and according to the size of your back yard or garden, fix the starting point and end of the race.
- Puzzles.- In a catholic book store, find various puzzles with biblical or Christian themes. If you do not find them, you can make then using graphics glued on to cardboard and then cutting it into the pieces. Form teams of3 or 4 children, who should make the puzzle in a fixed amount of time, The ones that finish first are the winners.
- Costume contest.- To make it more interesting, invite the children to briefly tell the story of their saint. In this way, the jury can take into account, not only the costume, but how well the child knows his Saint.
Don't forget to have plenty of prizes on hand. These may be rosaries, medals, stamps, coloring books, erasers, pencils, etc.
Halloween's positive message
Halloween and its back-back feast days mean more than talking about our favorite saints who lived in another time, another place. It’s also an opportunity to talk about what’s needed for holiness now. Halloween is like our Mardi Gras before a very serious Lent. We should be able to laugh at the dark side and dress up in costumes and have parties. Let’s reclaim our heritage with all the story power creativity and joyous good fun that we can. Let’s use it to help us become the saints we are each called to be. Halloween is a victory celebration, after all!
We are offering the book "Halloween, an Inoffensive Celebration?"- Written by Margarita Genters