As this annual holiday draws near, it’s good to set some things straight. A lot of people have the wrong idea about Hallowe’en—due both to how TV and the movies depict it, and also how some misinformed, but well intentioned people, talk about it.
It’s not pagan! It’s Catholic. It’s the eve of All Hallows—aka, All Saints. Some pagan practices had an influence; but this way overstated. It would be more accurate to say that both paganism and Catholicism do similar things—marking time and taking account of the rhythms of nature and life—but for very different reasons. But similarities and coincidences are inevitable.
Begging for snacks appears to originate from “souling”—in which poor people would seek food, offering prayers in return. It’s similar to Christmas caroling or “wassailing.” Dressing up may come from All Souls Day, Nov. 2. There was a custom in France, in the 1500s, of having plays that showed a “parade” of humanity, from birth, to death, to eternity, involved dressing up. It wasn’t sinister, but an invitation to conversion and prayer.
In our country, many Catholic images and practices have been “drained” of their Catholic content, only to be replaced with more questionable content. St. Patrick has been turned into a leprechaun who drinks too much. St. Nicholas became a shill for Coca-Cola. Easter and Christmas have been transformed; and this is what has happened with Hallowe’en.
How about we re-Christianize Hallowe’en? What if your child, while visiting homes, offered a prayer card in return—or simply promised a prayer? Visit 20 homes, say 20 “Glory Bes”? If the kids don’t dress as saints, at least be something heroic or fun, but not sinister.
I strongly urge you to avoid the darker things that have crept in. I know its fun to say “boo!”—but much of secular Hallowe’en goes way beyond that. We have TV shows and movies that are filled with darkness—and we make a grave mistake thinking this is all fun and games. Spiritual evil is real, and not to be taken lightly. And we have no reason to fear: we have Christ and the Sacraments!