A True Halloween
The month of October is one of my favorite times of the year. I love the colors, cooler weather, and the hustle and bustle of fall festivals and chili cook-offs. Though I’ve never had much affinity for Halloween’s secular festivities—especially the gory décor that accompanies it—I do have an attic chock-full of yellow, orange, and red-hued faux florals, plus a surplus of dried gourds and pumpkin picks. In September, the entire house is decked out in autumn finery, which we display until the day after Thanksgiving, when the Christmas decorating commences.
Putting the ornamentation of the holidays aside, it’s important to consider how our faith is represented in our celebrations. It is commonly known that Halloween originated in the liturgical calendar of the Roman Catholic Church. But for some, like many things in society, popular culture has muddied the lens through which we view the spirit of All Hallows’ Eve.
I have always had a difficult time discerning why good and evil get entangled every thirty-first of October. A memorandum on the celebration of Halloween by Bishop David A. Konderla for the Diocese of Tulsa has helped clarify and enrich my understanding of the devotional meaning and Catholic connection behind Halloween. He writes:
Separated from Catholic teaching, grim or ghoulish or “Gothic” costumes can furthermore be mistaken as a celebration or veneration of evil or of death itself, contradicting the full and authentic meaning of Halloween. For the Christian, Christ has conquered death, as has been prophesied and fulfilled, “Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55; see Hosea 13:14). Christ has conquered death by his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, the Paschal Mystery whose graces are evident in the glory of all saints.
Bishop Konderla also shares how the Catechism of the Catholic Church helps us know where to draw the line between secular adaptations and Christian traditions: We want to refrain from glamorizing or celebrating anything involving superstition, witches, witchcraft, sorcery, divinations, magic, and the occult (see CCC 2117).
Embracing the historical context and the Church’s guidance enables me to focus on the beauty and depth of what Halloween truly represents. It’s a prelude to All Saints’ Day on November 1, where we celebrate and rejoice in the legacy left by those faithful servants, and All Souls’ Day on November 2, when we honor all the faithful departed. All Hallows’ Eve prepares us to be mindful of our own eventual death and how we should strive to lead a virtuous life. And it’s a time to revel in Christ’s victory over death, sin, and Satan. All that provides ample reason to celebrate. Happy Halloween!