Yes, Catholics celebrate Halloween, and some research on this holiday will show that it has very Catholic roots.
I grew up Catholic and I grew up celebrating Halloween, but I never knew how Catholic Halloween was until recently. I knew that it meant “All Hallow’s Eve,” the night before All Saint’s Day, but that was the extent of my knowledge. A few weeks ago, I attended a talk at my campus’s Newman Center called “Halloween: the Uncanny Connections to Catholicism.” My campus’s chaplain taught us about the Catholic roots of several of our Halloween traditions. To celebrate the spooky season, I’ll recap my favorite parts in this blog post!
In Medieval times, when a family would lose a loved one, they would hollow out and place a candle in a gourd, most commonly, a pumpkin because it’s easiest to carve. They would then place that gourd outside of their home to let people know that they were mourning and as a way of asking for prayers. Sometimes they would carve a cross into the gourd, but eventually they gravitated towards carving faces into pumpkins.
When people would see the illuminated pumpkins and other gourds outside of a home, they would knock on the door and offer to pray for the family who lived there. In return, the family would offer them food, usually pastries or sweets. Eventually, knocking on doors and praying became a practice for the little ones, who would dress themselves up as Saints in the spirit of All Hallow’s Eve and All Saints Day.
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For me, the biggest takeaway of this talk was that Halloween celebrates us, the Church Militant still on Earth. While we celebrate the Saints in the Church Triumphant on All Saints Day and pray for the souls in Purgatory, who are the Church Suffering on All Soul’s Day, Halloween is the day for us, the Church Militant.
Halloween is a reminder that life is difficult for Catholics. It always has been and it always will be. We will always have our ghosts and monsters and demons that try to scare us, and death will always try to intimidate us. On Halloween especially, we are blessed to remember that these things have no power over us. Christ has conquered death so that we may have eternal life, so we have nothing to fear. We make fun of skeletons and monsters, knowing that they cannot harm us, and we continue to pray for each other to stay strong as the Church Militant.
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