It’s the time of the year again where Catholics ask if they can celebrate Halloween. We look into the traditional celebration of Halloween and how is it connected to our Catholic roots.
In the modern world, especially in English speaking countries, Halloween has become one of the most important holidays. Children and adults dress up as ghouls, goblins, or their favorite celebrities and cartoon characters.
In other parts of the world, like in the Philippines, this day is marked with visits to the cemeteries or lighting up candles for dead friends and relatives.
The Halloween tradition originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. The day marked the end of summer and harvest and the start of the winter. In ancient times, this time of the year is associated with human death.
The Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead becomes blurred. On the night of October 31, they celebrated Samhain because they believed that the dead return to earth as ghosts. (Read: All Saints’ Day, All Souls’ Day, & Halloween: What’s Their Difference?)
In 43 AD, the Roman Empire had conquered majority of Celtic lands and combined two Roman festivals with the traditional celebration of Samhain. The first is the Feralia, a day in October when the Romans commemorate the passing of the dead. The second was a day honoring Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruits and trees.
Despite its pagan origins, Halloween’s roots can still be traced to Christian origins. The name itself comes from All Hallow’s Eve– the Vigil of All Saints’ Day, when Catholics remember those who have gone to enter God’s embrace in heaven. The tradition of remembering the dead focuses on the liturgical teaching on the end times or one’s mortality.
In the 8th century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints. In time, All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain, wherein the evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween.
Family day of celebration
Aside from the spookiness around the holiday, the Church recognizes Halloween as a family day of celebration. Catholics celebrate and honor those family members who are now sharing eternal happiness in the presence of God, and ask their prayers on our behalf so that we too may join them in heaven. (Read: Celebrate Halloween at Home With These Spooky Treats!)
Meanwhile, the Church designates November 2 as the Feast of All Souls, a day to pray for all the departed souls in Purgatory. This is under the Christian belief of the “Communion of Saints– the union of all faithful on earth, the saints in heaven, and the poor souls in purgatory.
Halloween in modern times
Despite the pagan origins of the holiday, Catholics are not prohibited to celebrate the day. Thought it may be harder during this time because of the onslaught of Halloween witches, goblins, vampires, and other scary beings everywhere, we just have to tread carefully in celebrating the secular holiday. (Read: LOOK: These DIY Pope Francis Costumes Are Perfect for Your Kids This Halloween!)
One thing we can do is to encourage the children to learn about the Christian undertones of Halloween. This means teaching them that the Church does not prohibit them to enjoy simple earthly pleasures but instead take these as gifts from Good. Many of the practices of Halloween are innocent and fun, such as Trick or Treating, while some deal with healthy reminders of death, sin, and the devil. Teach kids that with Halloween comes the fun but also the honoring of saints in heaven, remembering our loved ones who passed away, and praying for the repose of their soul.