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Dave wrote:

Hi Mike,

I wanted to wish you a Happy Halloween a few days ago but I started to wonder:

  • Do Catholics celebrate Halloween?
  • What about All Saint's Day and All Soul's Day?

Dave

  { Do Catholics celebrate Halloween, All Saint's Day, and All Soul's Day? }

Mike replied:

Hi Dave,

I really wouldn't say Catholics celebrate Halloween and the Church does not celebrate Halloween as an official liturgical feast day.

This article from Catholics United for the Faith (CUFF) addresses your exact question.

All Hallows' Eve by Catholics United for the Faith

From that article:

We celebrate Halloween on the evening before All Saints Day. The word itself is a shortened form of All Hallows' Eve, which quite literally means the eve of All Saints. From the earliest days of the Feast of All Saints (mid-700's A.D.), Catholics observed October 31 as the vigil of this November 1 celebration.
This feast commemorates the lives of Christians who lived exemplary lives of faith.

Pope Sixtus IV introduced an octave to the feast day in the 1400's, which was celebrated until 1955.

In the United States, the secular celebration of Halloween combines the diverse holidays and cultural practices of the immigrants who settled here. The Church has not issued any prohibitions on celebrating Halloween, so Catholics remain free to participate in accord with their conscience. Naturally, such participation must not conflict with the faith or Christian charity.

  • On All Saints Day we honor all saints, past, present and future.
  • On All Souls Day we pray for those saints who still have some attached self-love and are being purified in Purgatory, the Holy Hospital of Heaven.

I have typed in brief descriptions of each of the [events|feast days] in your question from a reliable web site. I also found this article on the Catholic Answers web site:

and recommend a Catholic Answers Live radio show titled:

A Catholic Approach to Halloween

October 31st: Halloween

Although the name of this tradition is taken from the great Christian feast
(All Hallows' Eve), the observance of Halloween pranks, masquerading, trick or treat and similar features, are not based on any religious background nor connected with any Christian meaning. This practice has come down to us from the demon lore of the ancient Druids.

In a Catholic home, therefore, the participation of the children in such Halloween activities should not be explained as a part of the Christian feast, because such explanations would be erroneous. It is an ancient popular custom from pagan times which has never been associated with Christian meanings. Let the children enjoy their Halloween festival, if you wish, but apart from it direct their minds to the fact that this evening is primarily a time of preparation for the great feast of All Saints, and that after the Halloween frolics they should turn their minds to God in a devout evening prayer, and greet all the heroes of God on the eve of their feast.

November 1st: All Saints

The feast of All Saints was established by the Church because a very large number of martyrs and other saints could not be accorded the honor of individual celebrations since the days of the year would not suffice. Therefore, as the prayer of the Mass states, we venerate the merits of all the saints by this one celebration. There is another reason for the feast. Pope Urban IV mentioned it in the following words:

"Any negligence, omission and irreverence committed in the celebration of the saint's' feasts throughout the year is to be atoned for by the faithful, and thus due honor may still be offered these saints."

Pope Urban IV, Decretale Si Dominum.

It might be pointed out that from the very beginning, the commemoration of
All Saints included also, in a special way, the Blessed Virgin. When Pope Boniface IV, in 615, dedicated the former pagan temple of the Pantheon in Rome as a church, he called it the church of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the Martyrs. Thus All Saints is really a great feast day of Mary, too.

Perhaps this could be the day to acquaint the children with the litany of the Saints, by saying it together at the family devotion or by encouraging the older ones to recite it on their own. They should become aware of the groupings of saints under collective invocations (All holy patriarchs and prophets, etc.). Thus they will understand that the Church does not try to mention all saints individually but only chose a few representatives of each group. The second part of the litany will teach the children how to pray for the main needs, both temporal and spiritual, of the whole Christian world.

It was, and still is, a general custom to serve special All Saints pastry on this day. Usually it is made of sweet dough, with eggs, milk and raisins, and shaped in different forms and sizes according to tradition in various places. Perhaps families in this country could make such All Saints cakes, too? It does not matter what kind of mix and shape is used, as long as it is a distinctive feature of the feast and will remain associated with All Saints day in the minds of the children.

November 2th: All Souls

The commemoration of all the Holy Souls in Purgatory was introduced by St. Odilo, abbot of Cluny, about the year 1000 A.D. He prescribed that all the monks of his Benedictine congregation should offer the Holy Sacrifice and say prayers for the suffering souls every year on November 2. The popes in Rome gladly accepted this wonderful and charitable thought and extended the celebration to the whole Church. Since then we, not only pray for the Holy Souls throughout the year but, have a special day devoted to their prayerful memory. Pope Benedict XV, in 1915, allowed all priests to say three Masses on All Souls Day, so our dear departed ones will receive greater help from us and an abundance of mercy from God.

The main religious exercise we can perform on All Souls day is, of course, to attend the Holy Sacrifice and offer it for the departed ones. That is why an ancient custom in many countries demands that at least one member of every family go to church and Mass. It is also a custom to say the Rosary or other prayers at home for the Holy Souls, and to do some acts of charity for their sake.

On the afternoon of All Saints day, and during the whole of All Souls, many Catholics go to the cemeteries to pray at the graves of their dear departed. They decorate the tombs with lights and lanterns, and all the graves are adorned with flowers.

Catholic parents might prudently explain to their children that we should not only pray for the Holy Souls to help them, but that we may also pray to them for their intercession and help. It is a fact often mentioned among sincere Catholics that the Holy Souls invariably show their great power of intercession by unusual and surprising answers to our petitions. Not only in big and serious matters but even in little things they seem anxious to help us if only we turn to them in great confidence.

If Catholic parents, or anyone, for that matter, is interested in pursuing praying for the Holy Souls in Purgatory on a regular basis, check out my other web site at:

Helpers of the Holy Souls

My colleague Brian and I are trying to start Purgatory Prayer Programs across the United States and have a FREE starter kit we can send you. Just go to:

http://www.helpersoftheholysouls.com/FreeKit

Hope this helps,

Mike

Eric replied:

I'd qualify that.

While it would be nice to think that Catholics celebrate Halloween, I can assure you that, at least in the U.S., a large majority of Catholics celebrate Halloween as a secular cultural holiday, whether they should or not. The number of Catholics who refuse to participate in this secular holiday are few indeed.

So while it is true that the Catholic Church does not officially celebrate the holiday known as Halloween, individual Catholics in certain countries, for better or for worse, celebrate it as they do the other secular holidays.

Evangelicals, and especially Fundamentalists, much more energetically reject the holiday, as they do anything even remotely connected with paganism. Faithful Catholics tend to be divided on this. Some, perhaps following their Protestant brethren; others avoid anything to do with it.

Others, citing the Church's history of admitting cultural practices with pagan roots if the paganism is extirpated from them, believe some compromise is admissible. Less faithful Catholics are ignorant of the whole debate and just go with the flow.

Eric

Mary Ann replied:

Hi Dave,

Halloween is indeed a Christian Feast — All Hallows' Eve: the (Eve of All Saints).

The tricks and gathering of treats are also Christian. Yes, the feasts and the customs had pagan antecedents, but they are Christian and the pagan elements were baptized and given new meaning. The processions from house to house asking for treats, and promising reprisals (tricks) if you don't give any, comes from the custom of going from house to house begging for alms in the form of soul cakes.

Soul cakes were sweets that were baked and given out on this night as an alms whose beneficiary were the souls in Purgatory. The whole night is emblematic of the Christian life — give alms now or pay penalties later (and the trick is the playacting of the penalty).

The costumes and playacting also are Christian. It was a Christian way of expressing belief in, and lack of fear of the devil, death, and of all evil things. Mocking them was a part of medieval folklore and plays, like the mummers' plays. Going out into the night on the eve of the remembering of the departed (whether Saints or those in Purgatory) as a ghoul, a ghost, or a devil, was a reminder of death and evil and of our faith in God to protect us — our faith that as Christians, we are free and destined to be Saints.

On Halloween we thumb our nose at evil, confident in the victory of Christ over Satan. It is the most wonderful casual way of celebrating, in a human way, the sacred realities.

Unfortunately, nowadays forces of evil have claimed it for their own.

Hope this helps,

Mary Ann
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