Halloween is a huge holiday for Americans, and the spending shows it. According to the National Retail Federation, Americans will spend over $12 billion in 2023, more than is spent for either the Super Bowl or Independence Day. Retail stores are packed with everything Halloween–costumes, candy, decorations, and more.
Halloween is a big part of our culture, but with the prevalence of a darker side to the festivities, Catholic families often ask if they should participate at all.
What is Halloween?
The origins of Halloween can be traced back to an ancient Celtic harvest festival called Samhain. Celts believed that on October 31 the dead returned to earth as ghosts. Sacred bonfires, costumes, and sacrifices were used in the observation of the festival, to ward off evil and protect crops for their new year which began November 1.
Later, in 609 A.D. Pope Gregory III made November 1 All Saints Day, and in 1000 A.D. the Church declared November 2 All Souls Day to honor the dead. So for Christians, the focus was moved away from the occult.
The Catholic Sourcebook, published by Our Sunday Visitor Curriculum Division, provides more context:
“Hallow’s Eve” sounds like “Halloween” and it should, because that’s where it came from: the eve, or vigil, of All Hallows, which is All Saints Day. On All Souls Day (which is actually the day after All Saints Day) the poor begged for food and promised to pray for the dead in return. They called the little cakes they received “soul cakes” – not the biggest stretch from today’s trick-or-treat spoils. Masks and costumes? Maybe these disguises will confuse the evil spirits.
What should parish families do?
Some people still choose to associate Halloween with the occult, but many do not. Catholic families can participate in many aspects of Halloween and even help kids focus on Christian virtues and values. In this way, we reclaim it as a Christian holiday.
Many of the fall activities surrounding Halloween are fun and wholesome. Carving or decorating pumpkins and setting out other fall decorations is something that the whole family can enjoy.
Instead of scary or horror-movie costumes, help children choose a favorite sports star, superhero, or even a saint. Find ideas online for costumes for a little Saint George or Saint Lucy! This can be a fun way to learn about a saint and get creative.
When the kids go trick–or–treating it’s a great time to encourage them to show gratitude, moderation, and patience. If you’ve decided to stay home and hand out candy, remind children to be generous and joyful givers. (Some kids enjoy giving even more than trick-or-treating!)
Encourage families to attend Mass on All Saints Day and All Souls Day. Focusing on the Communion of Saints will help form children in their Catholic identity, and build their Catholic conscience.
Is your parish or school hosting a Halloween party, or an All Saints Day celebration? Use your parish communication tool like Ministry Platform to send invitations, collect RSVPs, and coordinate volunteers for snacks and cleanup.
Polly King has over 30 years in the marketing and communications field, the last 12 in Catholic publishing. As a convert to the Catholic faith, she has a deep passion for helping parishes engage and evangelize their communities. This led her to join ACS Technologies as part of their mission to serve the Church with technology and solutions that support their ministries. Polly currently resides in Indiana with her husband Bob and their 14-year-old Australian Shepherd, Riley. Her commitment to her faith and dedication to her profession make her an inspiring figure for those looking to make a positive impact in their communities.