The Catholic Defender: Halloween
In some countries, on Halloween, the faithful go to cemeteries to remember the dead and pray. I remember doing this in New Orleans when I was stationed there with the Army. Reminds me of what we do on All Souls Day (November 2). It was called "ALL HALLOWS EVE", the night before All Saint's Day!
Most people are more familiar with the tradition going trick or treating. Trick or treat or not to trick or treat? That is the question! There are many people who feel that Halloween is a demonic celebration, others believe that today Halloween is more of a secular holiday loaded with harmless fun for the family. Some church groups use the occasion to have celebrations of harvest, while others use the occasion to conduct Judgement House which is a christian alternative of a haunted house.
Still,some churches put on some of the best "Haunted Houses" in the town. Originally, Halloween was part of a Celtic festival based from a Celtic celebration known as "Sanhain",
meaning "for the harvest". This was a period after summer and before winter. The Pagan belief that at this time, the barrier between the living and the dead narrowed and opened. This opening peaked on October 31, the spirits of the dead would come back and cause mischief destroying crops or haunting family members. These superstitions may of had a basis from droughts or terrible hunger due to bad harvest seasons. In time and space, the Catholic Church would branch out throughout the world. Many customs and traditions of the people were transformed to the gospel message as Christ light delivered them from darkness.
The Catholic Church institutes "All Saints Day" on November 1 to honor all the martyrs and Saints. Because of the Christians veneration and honor of the Saints, October 31 became known as "All Hallows Eve". The Catholic Church continues to seek to promote Christ to a Pagan world where superstition and legends give way to the light of truth. Christ is the Light of the World. By the 12th century, this celebration, "All Saints Day", became very popular throughout Europe. The intent of this major Feast Day, was to counter the Pagan practices of the Celtics and the "worship of the spirits". By the 16th century, with the advent of the Protestant Revolution, Halloween was attacked because of their opposition to the teaching on Purgatory.
In the 19th century, because of the Puritan influence, Halloween was viewed similarly like other Christian celebrations such as Christmas and Easter as Pagan. Anti-Catholics particularly hold to this view. In America, Halloween was originally celebrated by Scottish and Irish immigrants that would host dinners and parties. In the early going, because of the Protestant opposition in America, these celebrations were attacked by those who viewed these celebrations as evil. Sometimes there were violence committed by the Protestants. Households would have their own celebrations where children would have games, pranks, and mischief.
By 1915, post cards began to feature hundreds of designs popularizing Halloween, the Dennison Manufacturing Company published the first Halloween catalog in 1909. Soon afterward, Halloween began to emerge in America as a national Holiday. In our times, the practice of "Trick or Treat" is said to come from the old Pagan beliefs of offering gifts to the spirits so they would not harass the living or their crops. English Christians began a custom on "All Souls Day", November 2, where the faithful would take "soul" cakes and give them to the hungry, many suffering from starvation.
Out of gratitude, the poor would offer prayers for the family heritage of those offering the blessing of the cakes. What a wonderful tradition to foster aid to the poor and to develop prayer for the poor souls of Purgatory. Just this past two weeks, I was helping my college club "sife" raise 2500 lbs of food for the hungry in our area. What a blessing it is to help those in need! The tradition of dressing up in costumes seems to originate in England, it was based from a Pagan belief that the spirits would haunt and torment living family members. The people began the tradition of dressing up in costumes to hide from these spirits. For the Christian, we recognize Christ judges our hearts and will not be fooled by masks. From the Christian experience, there is no connection to the earlier Pagan practice. The Jack-o-Lantern, originally seen with a tulip, originates in the United States due to the influx of Irish Immigrants in the latter 1840's. The pumpkins became popular because of their size and availability.
The legend begins with a wager between "Stingy Jack" and the Devil.
Through a trick, the Devil had no rights for Jack's soul, but Jack had to wonder aimlessly in Purgatory until that day when the Lord returns to judge the living and the dead. Until that time, Jack travels endlessly in darkness. The Devil gives him a chunk of burning coal from hell to provide Jack light. On October 31, Jack joins the other spirits to torment mankind. It seems that witchcraft originally becomes associated with Halloween sometime before 1900, witches for a long time have been viewed like other fictitious characters such as Dracula, ware-wolves, Frankenstein, the Mummy, and hundreds of other monsters.
I'm a bit more apprehensive towards witchcraft because of the rise of the Wiccan movement today. Harry Potter and company seems to have aided in peoples fascination with the Occult and witchcraft. Many dress up in all kinds of costumes from movie characters, games, even Saints. All Christians would certainly oppose anything that involves the Devil or evil. I remember in the 1980's as I paid close attention to one of my favorite bands, "Petra", it took a while for Christians to accept Christian Rock. Some thought that the music was evil and from the Devil. The Catholic Faith has always been about taking Christ to the world where they can see him! Halloween, even though there might be a demonic reality to October 31st, this has nothing to do with the harmless fun people give to Halloween. (Editors note) My point I am making here is that in no way are the vast majority of American who participate in Halloween activities taking part in any Pagan, or Occultic rituals as some have proclaimed. The major concern continues to be that families go where it is safe to do so and follow the guidelines of their local establishments.
Because there are deranged individuals who prey upon the innocence, it is best to "trick or treat" in safe neighborhoods, church sponsored events, school lead events, even shopping malls that offer a safe environment for children. Parents must be with their children at all times as they go house to house. Mom and Dad, as you plan to take your children out to have a good time, please give them the foundation of our holy Catholic Faith. If you do, you will be giving them a firm foundation.