Reclaiming Halloween

Jack O' Lanterns for All Hallows Eve
Halloween is the popular vernacular term for "All Hallows Eve," which is the old English way of saying "All Saints Evening."  All major Catholic celebrations always begin at sundown the night before, such as Christmas Eve and the Easter Vigil for example.  So All Hallows Eve begins at sundown the night before All Hallows, or All Saints Day.  The word "hallow" itself is an old English way of saying "holy."  We say it all the time in the Lord's Prayer: "Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name..."

All Hallows Eve is a Catholic celebration -- 100% Catholic!  This video explains it in detail, so I won't dive too deeply into it in this article.  Please watch it HERE.  You'll be glad you did.

I've already covered the concept of Purgatory in a previous article this month which you can read here.  In short, All Hallows was a feast day created by the Catholic Church on November 1st to combat the Pagan practises of fear and darkness that were once typically celebrated in Europe around this time of year.  Actually, two days were created eventually.  The first is All Saints (or All Hallows) on November 1st, and the second is All Souls on November 2nd.  They are both very important days to Roman Catholics, and the evening before the first one -- All Hallows Eve -- should be a special time of fun, celebration and preparation for All Saints and All Souls. Like Christmas, we should get the kids in on the action, and let them have a good time.

All Saints, or "All Hallows," on November 1st, is the celebration and remembrance of all the Christians who have gone to heaven before us.  This is their day, and All Hallows Eve, on October 31st, is their night.  We Christians, especially Catholic Christians, need to reclaim this day and own it!

Now before becoming Catholic, my wife and I used to be Evangelical Protestants, and we were quite fundamentalist at that.  We were of the persuasion that Halloween is "evil" and the "devil's holiday."  We swore we would never let our kids practise that, and we spent our Halloween nights indoors, with no outside lights turned on, and ignoring the occasional knocks at the door.  All I can say is thank God we didn't actually have any kids until we became Catholic, because by that time we put this foolishness behind us, and dressed our kids up for "trick or treat."

Running and hiding is actually the WORST THING POSSIBLE for a Christian to do, especially if one sees problems with the modern way in which Halloween is celebrated.  Christians are the Church Militant, and that means we are to engage this world and sanctify everything about it -- including time and space. That means Halloween too, and indeed All Hallows Eve was created specifically for this purpose.  The Catholic Church gave us this tool specifically to combat the Pagan teachings of magic, occultism and darkness.  So let's use it!

The first and most important thing we can do to reclaim, and own, Halloween is to start calling it "All Hallows Eve" and start calling the next day (November 1st) "All Hallows."  This will naturally invite questions as to why we use this terminology, and that in turn creates an opportunity to explain the Catholic Christian significance of this celebration.  Remember, All Hallows is our day!  It doesn't have much significance outside of Catholicism.  The next thing we should do is have fun.  By that I mean carve some jack o' lanterns, decorate the home, and even light a bonfire (if it's legal and you have a safe place).  We may also want to get some safe outdoor candles and even some biodegradable Chinese lanterns.  I'll explain more below.

This may sound a little odd at first, but it makes perfect theological sense.  How about a midnight mass, in a parish chapel, using the propers for All Saints on All Hallows Eve?  Better yet, how about another midnight mass, on the following night (November 1st), using the propers for All Souls, in a Christian cemetery? Sound creepy?  Well it would only be for those who don't know what's going on, but for Catholic Christians (who have a clue) the whole thing would be a celebration of eternal life in Jesus Christ and prayer for the souls in purgatory.  I think it would be really neat.  Imagine the scene on Halloween night, after traditional 'trick or treat' celebrations, where Catholics gather at a local parish for a midnight All Saints mass.  Church bells are rung at midnight, just to let everybody know something is going on.  The ceremony is by candle light, with incense and chant.  Come on!  You know this would be fun.  Even more so, it would generate some real questions.  Such as; "Why do Catholics worship at midnight by candlelight on Halloween?"  and "Why do Catholics worship by candlelight in a cemetery the day after Halloween?" Or maybe I'm just looking for more questions to write a sequel to my book. ;)  Now in addition to that, I'm going to discourage closed in, church or parish "alternate Halloween" celebrations on All Hallows Eve.  These are fine for other nights, but not All Hallows Eve.  Here is the reason why.  We Christians are called to combat the culture not hide from it.  We are called to capture it, redeem it and sanctify it.  Enclosed church Halloween alternatives practically function as larger family Halloween boycotts, like some Evangelicals who hide in their homes on Halloween night.  Granted, at least with the church function, the kids are having some fun, but nobody is engaging the culture here.  The culture continues to go to "hell in a hand basket" while Christians hide in their church buildings to celebrate an "alternative."  I say, do the alternative celebrations a different night, and let the families celebrate All Hallows on October 31 in a Christian way -- fully engaging the culture like they're supposed to.  The All Hallows mass should be reserved for midnight, after all the 'trick or treating' is done. Finally, the last thing we can do is introduce some common sense into the celebration, especially in regards to costumes.  Some Catholic children are starting to dress up as their favourite Saint for All Hallows Eve.  Some are going as angels and Bible characters and such.  This is all very admirable, but at the same time, we need not get dogmatic about this.  It's okay to have a little ghoulish fun.  Remember, we are Catholics.  We dig things like gargoyles on cathedrals, because Christ has conquered death.  Death has lost its sting.  So it's okay to poke fun at these things.  However, let's keep it reasonable and Christian please.  We shouldn't do things, or dress up as things, that make people nauseated or want to sin.  So maybe rethink the costume of the dude with the bloody axe in his head, or the costume of the sexy French maid.  Do you understand what I mean?  A little ghost, goblin, or creepy monster is one thing.  A costume that glorifies sex or violence is something else.  Use some common sense folks, and remember who you are in Jesus Christ. Costumes that glorify or encourage sin are probably not the best choice.

What about fake haunted houses or zombie apocalypse tours and such?  I don't think these add or detract anything from the celebration of All Hallows, but I do think we should stop and consider what our focus should be. An occasional horror tour is all in good fun. Everybody likes a scare once in a while.  However, if all you're doing is visiting these attractions, I must ask, were is the "All Saints" in your celebration?

All seances and occult practises are out -- period -- don't even think about it.  It's a grave sin and a violation if the first commandment.  Ignore anyone who does this stuff.  Ignoring is the best medicine, and puts such practises where they belong -- in a place of irrelevance.  You have to remember, the Catholic Church gave us All Hallows as a tool to combat these very things.

Let me tell you my vision of Halloween, and maybe someday it can become reality, if Christians (especially Catholic Christians) put their mind to it.  I envision a future Halloween that is almost universally called by its rightful name "All Hallows Eve."  The day is set up for preparation, with traditional decorations, jack o' lanterns, scarecrows, some light-hearted spooky stuff (just for fun, nothing too scary), and perhaps some statues or posters of favourite Saints placed in front lawns, or in the windows of homes.  In addition, there is nothing wrong with a some fog machines and eerie mood music -- if you're into that sort of thing.  The evening begins with some good ol' fashioned 'trick or treat.'  Children wear costumes that are fun, and if adults want to participate, they wear costumes that are tasteful.  As the night darkens, candles are seen flickering from the tombstones of graveyards, symbolising the light of Christ, and placed there by their surviving loved ones.  Up in the air, orange Chinese lanterns begin to fill the sky, symbolising the flight of departed souls into heaven.  Late that night, as sleepy young children go to bed (presumably watched over by their grandparents), their parents and older siblings, attend a candlelight midnight mass for All Saints in a local Catholic parish chapel.  The next day the celebration continues in a more solemn way, as graves of loved ones are visited, ancestors are respected, and more candles are placed on their tombstones for the evening.  On the night of All Hallows (November 1st), a midnight mass is celebrated again, using the propers for All Souls (Nov. 2nd), this time in a cemetery, presuming one is available, the weather is not inclement, and the groundskeepers are agreeable to it. This extends the celebration of All Hallows out over two days, instead of just one, and doubles the time we spend on it.  It will effectively render occult observations of the day obsolete and irrelevant.  The Halloween I envision is a beautiful one, filled with celebration of life, light, a little harmless ghoul and tasteful make believe.  It is followed by the celebrations of All Hallows the next day, and All Souls the day after, wherein candles continue to be lit on the tombstones of departed loved ones.  I envision a Halloween where Christians, particularly Catholic Christians, have taken it back and own it.  I envision and "All Hallows Eve" wherein Christians, particularly Catholic Christians, freely discuss the Catholic meaning behind the celebration, and it is well known to the general public.  In my vision of All Hallows, the marketing of the occult, sex and violence has become obsolete and irrelevant, simply because not enough people are into that any more.

How long would something like this take?  Not long at all.  In fact, with the speed of the Internet, it could happen in just a few annual celebrations.  Maybe you could help by sharing this article with some friends. Below, at the bottom of this article, you will see some share icons.  I invite you to use them.  :)


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Highly recommended by priests and catechists, "Catholicism for Protestants" is a Biblical explanation of Roman Catholic Christianity as told by Shane Schaetzel -- an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism.  The book is concise and formatted in an easy-to-read Question & Answer catechism style.  It addresses many of the common questions Protestants have about Catholicism. It is ideal for Protestants seeking more knowledge about the Catholic Church, and for Catholics seeking a quick refresher course on fundamental Catholic teaching. It's an excellent book for Catholics and Protestants alike!

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