Halloween is a tricky holiday (no pun intended), and many Catholics struggle with whether to celebrate it at all. The way our culture celebrates Halloween tends to glorify the demonic, and year after year, Halloween is rife with demonic costumes, frightening decorations, ouija boards, and references to witchcraft.
What’s a faithful Catholic to do?
Some swear off the holiday altogether, but to do so ignores the basic facts of the Catholic origin of Halloween. Firstly, the name itself is Catholic, since it comes from All Hallow’s Eve. The term hallow is an archaic word that refers to a saint or holy person. Thus, “All Hallow’s Eve” literally refers to the night before of All Saint’s Day.
There are, of course, very real dangers that come with the holiday. We need to be aware of these so that we can safely navigate them. The carefree trivializing of evil as a source of cheap thrills makes it easier for Satan and his minions to deceive us. Remember: demons, witchcraft, evil, and the supernatural are all very real—and should be treated as such. God explicitly commands us not to mess with the supernatural realm because of the potential danger found there.
So how, exactly, do we celebrate Halloween as Catholics? Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Go to Mass
All Saint’s Day (November 1st) is a holy day of obligation. If your parish offers it, one way to celebrate Halloween is to attend a vigil Mass on Halloween night. Given that Halloween is quite literally the vigil of a feast, Mass is perhaps the most appropriate way to celebrate of all!
Hold a vigil in your home
This year, depending on where you live, you may not be able to invite family and friends over to host a vigil party, but that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate on your own. Make a special meal to share with your household and light some candles as a reminder that light overcomes darkness. You can even place them inside of pumpkins if you are feeling particularly festive. Be sure to include some prayer into your evening. Perhaps a rosary offered up for the grace of a happy death for yourself and your loved ones. If you can, stay up until midnight in true vigil-style, so that you can greet the holy day with a song or a prayer to a favorite Saint before bed.
There is no reason why we, as Catholics, can’t participate in the tradition of dressing up on Halloween. There is nothing immoral about trick or treating, or about dressing up as our favorite characters from stories or our real life heroes. What we need to be careful about is the scarier side of Halloween—dressing up as vampires or witches or demons does nothing but glorify that which should not be glorified. Instead, dress up as someone who inspires you—fictional or not—and consider what draws you to that person. Is it their courage? Their kindness? Their strength? To take it further, how can you develop those qualities that you admire within yourself?
Bonus: if you dress up as a saint, your costume can do double-duty at an All Saint’s Day party the next day!
Pray to St. Michael
If you aren’t sure what prayers to add to your Halloween celebration, look no further than the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel.
Saint Michael the Archangel is the leader of God’s heavenly army, and as such, is particularly suited for defense against the devil. Invoking Saint Michael in prayer protects us against the demonic in the form of both simple temptations and darker occurrences.
Embrace memento mori
Memento mori is a Latin phrase meaning “remember you death,” and a part of an ancient tradition within the Catholic Church. This tradition has received a revival of sorts in recent times (just search #mementomori on Twitter and Instagram).
Memento mori reminds us that death is inevitable and to live in a way that recognizes this fact. Given that Halloween is the eve of All Saints Day (which is then followed by All Souls Day), it is the perfect time to reflect on our own death.
In the spirit of memento mori, you can decorate your home in more traditional Halloween decorations like skulls and skeletons as a visual reminder that life on this earth is temporary.
You can also embrace memento mori by spending some time in quiet reflection, focusing particularly on how we are living our lives—and how we could live them better. Have you put off the things that God is calling you to do? Do you spend your time aimlessly scrolling social media rather than being present to family and friends?
Halloween provides the perfect opportunity to consider these questions, and to remember that time is a precious gift—one that we do not have an infinite supply of.
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