Catholics and Halloween
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Catholics and Hallowen:

The Catholic Origins and Roots of Halloween

The celebration of Halloween has been a controversial topic amongst many people including Christians and even Catholics. In one side there is the false notions and myths that Halloween is based on pagan origins such as that of Samhain. There is also the objection by many Protestants regarding the praying to the dead and their denial of the doctrine of Purgatory. There is lastly the reality that Halloween has become a secularized and commercial celebration.

It is the main point of this article to express the reality of Halloween. This will include the Catholic and Christian origins of Halloween, it will refute the objections regarding its celebration, express the traditional Catholic customs on Halloween, as well as offer Catholic solutions to a once Catholic holiday gone mad.

Celtic origins of Samhain

It is true that in pre-Christian times that the Celts would practice what was known as Samhain. “The ancient Celtic peoples who inhabited England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and Brittany (NW France) celebrated their New Year’s on what would be November 1st on our Calendar (Gregorian calendar).”1

The Celt and druids during this time considered the reality of human death. “It was believed that on the last night of the year the lord of death, Samhain, allowed the souls of those who died in sin and in Celtic belief “imprisoned in the bodies of animals”, could be released through gifts to the lord of death”2

Catholic Origins of Halloween

The 3 days of November 31, November 1, and November 2, are days in which we as Catholics remember, pray, fast, and honor those faithful departed and all those who have gone before us.

In the Early Church there was rampant persecution against Christians. Various Christians were martyred for their faith. Because there were so many martyrs, that we simply could not all possibly venerate without exhaustion, the Church helped create a special Feast day on November 1 called “All Saints Day”. “This is a holy day of obligation and is the day that the Church honors all of God’s saints even those who have not been canonized by the Church”3

It is stated that “the honoring of all Christian martyrs of the faith was originally celebrated on May 13, the date established by the fourth century, Pope Boniface IV established it in 615 as the Feast of all Martyrs”4

In that same century in May 13, 609 or 610, “Pope Boniface IV consecrated the ancient Roman Pantheon as a temple of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of all martyrs”5

The Feast of all saints was transferred by Pope Gregory IV to November 1st. It is stated that one of the reasons for doing this was to help sanctify a pagan holiday.

November 2nd similarly is a day of praying and remembering the faithful departed who are in Purgatory. “This day is officially set aside to pray for the Church Suffering (The Holy Souls in Purgatory). Practices center on praying for the souls in Purgatory, especially for our loved ones.”6

This then brings us to October 31st in which Halloween is celebrated. Halloween is properly called (Hollow’s Eve or Halloween). It is stated that “ in Irish popular piety, it came to be a day of remembering the dead who are neither in purgatory, or in Heaven, but are damned.”7

Thus extending from this Irish custom October 31st, as well as November 1 and 2 could be days which are centered on the reality of the Four Last Things, including death, judgment, heaven, and lastly the reality of hell and how to avoid it.

It could also similarly be stated that just as the night before any feast day or celebration is considered to be a vigil” so Halloween falls on October 31 because it is the vigil before All Saints Day”8

Traditional Catholic Customs and Traditions

There are various Catholic customs and traditions that make Halloween a Christian holiday. There are various Christian customs deriving from various places around the world, mostly Europe. These include customs and traditions ranging from England, France, Ireland, and Mexico.

It is stated that the act of begging from door to door came from English Catholics. “Children would go about begging their neighbors for a “soul cake” for which they would say a prayer for their neighbor’s dead”9

We also derive the customs of dressing up in customs from the French which originated in the times of the Black Plague when artistic customs of the dead were known as the “Danse Macabe”

There is lastly the story of how we derived the Jack-o-lanterns. There are two main stories both of which we get from Irish Catholics. One derivation is:

here once was an old drunken trickster named Jack, a man known so much for his miserly ways that he was known as "Stingy Jack," He loved making mischief on everyone -- even his own family, even the Devil himself! One day, he tricked Satan into climbing up an apple tree -- but then carved Crosses on the trunk so the Devil couldn't get back down. He bargained with the Evil One, saying he would remove the Crosses only if the Devil would promise not to take his soul to Hell; to this, the Devil agreed.

After Jack died, after many years filled with vice, he went up to the Pearly Gates -- but was told by St. Peter that he was too miserable a creature to see the Face of Almighty God. But when he went to the Gates of Hell, he was reminded that he couldn't enter there, either! So, he was doomed to spend his eternity roaming the earth. The only good thing that happened to him was that the Devil threw him an ember from the burning pits to light his way, an ember he carried inside a hollowed-out, carved turnip.

There is also another derivation of this story which states that Jack tricked the devil twice, once in a bar by tricking him to turn into a coin, and the second by winning him in a game of dice.

Objections To Halloween

There are several objections to the celebration of Halloween such as the origins of Halloween being based on Samhain which I talked about earlier. This myth is promoted by “neo-pagan websites that claim that Halloween was an attempt by Early Christians to “baptize” the Gaelic harvest festival of Samhain.”10

Similarly Protestants object to it in the basis that Catholicism is based on Pagan practices such as Halloween. This is clearly seen by their rejection of the doctrine of Purgatory as nothing else that pagan myth, which many equate with Samhain as well. “This myth is also based on bad research and propaganda that developed after the Protestant Reformation”11

Even amongst Catholics including traditionally minded ones there is an objection to the celebration of Halloween. “Some traditional Catholics, objecting to the definite secularization of the holiday and to the myth that the entire thing is “pagan” to begin with refuse to celebrate it any way at all”12 This objections also extends to the reality that Halloween has become not only secular but completely commercialized.

A True Catholic Celebration of Halloween

This does not mean that Catholics should not celebrate Halloween. Rather as Catholics it should be noticed that we have always been known to help sanctify and Christianize the unholy and pagan. This should be true in regards to a once Catholic holiday gone mad which is in need of redemption.

There are various things that we as Catholics can do to help bring back the Christian and Catholicity of a once Catholic holiday. One of the things we can do is to use this day as a reminder of the realities of evil, the devil, and hell in order to avoid it, but also as a day of vigil, praying and fasting for the souls in Purgatory which we celebrate on November 2nd, as well as vigil in preparation for All Saints Day on November 1st.

The Church militant, the Christian faithful here on earth can and should pray and fast for the Holy Souls in Purgatory. “Like Christmas and All Saints Day, had a penitential nature requiring abstinence from meat and fasting and prayer”13

Another way of having a truly Christian and Catholic Halloween celebration could be to help bring back many of the customs described earlier, which describes the Christian origins of Halloween. The next days on all Saints and all Souls Day, could also include boys and girls dressing up as Holy Angels, saints, kings, Templars, popes, and many other things which helps bring up the reality of Heavenly and spiritual things.

Lastly don’t forget to use Halloween as a means of explaining to your kids the reality of the four last things, including death, judgment, heaven, and hell, which the celebration of Halloween expresses. There is nothing wrong in telling good hearted scary stories such as tales of Edgar Allan Poe, as well as other Catholic minded stories that go with Halloween and the reality of the Four Last Things.


1)EWTN: Halloween: Its Origins and its Celebration

3)Jennifer Gregory Miller: History of All Hallows' Eve (

5)Halloween Its Origins and its Celebration op.cit

6) Fish Eaters: Halloween
7) ibid
8) ibid

9)Fish Eaters op.cit

10)Jon Sorensen: Halloween or Samhain? (Catholic Answers)
11) ibid

12) Fish Eaters op.cit

13)Miller op.cit

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