Thursday, October 22, 2009

Do Catholics celebrate Halloween?

It's that magical time of the year, and no I don't mean Christmas. While googleling images for this post I came across everything from the macabre to the mundane, so I settled for the pumpkin. It was either that or something with witches, black cats, devils, or the gorry, slasher trademark ala Mike Meyers. I get asked this question every year, the one it okay for Catholics to celebrate halloween?
And I give the same answer, of course, as long as you as a Catholic understand the meaning behind the name All Hallows Eve. When I was growing up we always dressed in costume and traversed the neighborhood for goodies. My brother and I were always some sort of comicbook or cartoon character. We never went for the scarry or evil side of the celebration. It was meant to be fun and it meant a night to run around the neighborhood with friends going from house to house yelling and screaming just because you could. When my husband and I moved into our neighborhood twenty years ago we were thrilled to find that there was a block party that was planned for each halloween night. Everyone came out of the house and set up their tables of candy in their driveway so the kids could go house to house without worrying about going up to a darkened house and being frightened. It was not a night to be scared, but was a night for family and friends to come together in the 'spirit' of fun.
Of course this tradition is about as American as one can get. For Catholics we are reminded that the next day is All Saints Day. We pray and remember all those loved ones who have died and are in heaven as saints. The next day, November 2nd, is All Souls Day and we remember those souls who are in purgatory awaiting to be granted entrance into heaven by the prayers of all the faithful praying with the Church. As Catholics we have to be mindful of how we celebrate the night before All Saints Day. Sadly it has become for some a night to worship evil and many think that dressing as devils and witches is just in fun and has no real significance. As Catholics we must never give any credance to evil even in jest. Opening a door to the evilness in the secular world is just that...leaving the door open. Remember initially the night before All Saints Day was a pagan holiday celebrated in Ireland, it took the Catholic Church's influence to change the day into one of charity and commemoration of the dead. Men and women would go from house to house asking for food to be distributed to the poor and then ask the poor soul's to pray for the donor's dead.
Some still believe the gates of the underworld are opened on this night for ghosts, witches and devils to roam freely and cause havoc. I recently read an article that said people would masquerade so as to disguise themselves from the ghouls and goblins that roamed the lands, hence then they would not be bothered. There are many stories and folklore surrounding the history of halloween and how it came to be celebrated as we know it today. We as Catholics still need to be aware of the significance of All Saints Day. This is especially true when picking costumes for children and planning parties. Evil is real and we need to pray for the safety of our children and for ourselves. Have fun and be safe.
Happy Halloween!

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