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To Trick or Not to Treat: May Catholics Celebrate Halloween?

The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs (about 1423-24) by Fra Angelico:

The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs (about 1423-24) by Fra Angelico

What does the Catholic Church teach about Halloween? This question comes up every year when the pumpkins and spiders appear on grocery store shelves. The question is often avoided because we all know how much our kids love to dress up and go trick or treating. Are they worshipping Satan as many fellow Christians warn us?

The Church teaches about Halloween as a feast day of the Roman Catholic liturgical year. Halloween is the abbreviated name of All Hallows Eve. The word 'Hallows' is a synonym for ''Saints. The modern translation for Halloween would thus be the Vigil of All Saints Day. Halloween is a feast day of the Catholic Church and as such is to be celebrated by attending Mass.

As the trick or treating part of Halloween is a secular custom outside of the liturgical life of Catholicism, the Church makes no definite pronouncements about it. Many say that Jack ’o lanterns and trick or treating are rooted in the pagan Celtic Samhain and is therefore devil worship. Now, the Irish have been Christians for roughly 1500 years. They were not the only ones whose traditions included going from house to house begging for treats. The custom has been christianized in many ways since then. In Germany, for example, children dress up as the three Magi and sing songs in exchange for treats at Epiphany. In medieval England, the poor went from door to door asking for food, 'soul cakes' in exchange for prayers for the beloved departed of the giver’s family.Trick or treating is a joyful , community building event. It is one of the rare occasions on which we meet our neighbors. Our family and many of our friends’ families are eagerly expected by elderly neighbors who very much look forward to giving out treats to our children.

But what about the ghoulish stuff? It is a mirror of our society. The demonic is everywhere. We see little girls dressed up as zombie princesses and boys as Darth Vader – rarely as Luke Sky Walker. The demonic exercises a strange fascination over us which cannot be good for our souls. It is everywhere: on TV, on our public library shelves, in our shopping malls. Does it keep you from shopping or visiting the library? I pray it keeps you from watching TV. Should we surrender our Catholic Halloween to the ghouls? Trick or treating can be a great opportunity for evangelization. Dress up as saints or heroes. Show that the good can be fascinating. Here are some great ideas to evangelize:

If you really want to get into the lives of the Saints, read this:

The following is a very long, detailed and sensible article with a cited blog post at the end containing a great idea for evangelization. Skip to the end if pressed for time:

Stay tuned for books in the next post!

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