Have you ever wondered if Halloween is evil? Should Catholics be celebrating Halloween? Is the holiday harmless or dangerous?
This time of year evokes debate from all different perspectives about the origins, safety, and sanctity of the yearly celebration of Halloween. Some worry about the possibility of demonic influence surrounding the day and night. Others believe that Halloween is a day for fun and innocence, and if you don’t seek out evil, you can avoid it.
Who is right? Are either one of these perspectives accurate? What is a good Catholic to do?
To answer these questions and provide some perspective that seeks to address the truth about this holiday we have compiled a Catholic guide to Halloween and spiritual warfare.
What are the real origins of Halloween?
The origins of Halloween are often debated and called into question this time of year. Some claim that it is pagan in origin. Some say it is Catholic. The holiday is often associated with the ancient Celts and said to have originated in Ireland and was an attempt to co-opt the pagan celebration of Samhain. Others claim it is an ancient feast day associated with the equinoxes celebrated by the matriarchal pagan societies.
The truth is, Halloween, or “All Hallows Eve” began not as a nationalistic celebration but more as a Vigil Feast. Similar to Christmas Eve or Mardi Gras, it was a celebration in anticipation of the liturgical feast day that we call All Saints Day.
According to Fr. Steve Gunrow, CEO of Word on Fire, the original Catholic celebration of All Hallow’s Eve was corrupted largely by the Protestant Reformation. As the Reformation took hold throughout Europe and particularly in America, all things “Catholic” were called pagan, including Halloween and its liturgical association. As time went on, Catholics surrendered to this narrative in America and the modern incarnation of Halloween became co-opted by neo-pagan practice and lore and exported to Europe. Today’s Halloween celebrations often glorify evil and the demonic. Satanists claim the day as their “new year”. The current understanding and celebration of Halloween should not be ignored simply because its origins were Catholic. Many Catholics today wonder just what a Catholic approach to Halloween should look like.
So is Halloween a holiday or holy day?
Catholics have a long reputation for sanctifying and restoring holidays. The Catholic approach to Halloween, according to Vatican and Roman exorcists, should be no different.
“Halloween is the antechamber towards something much more disturbing. For devotees of the occult, October 31 is the satanic new year. It’s a time for luring new converts. And it’s a time when exorcists have to work harder,” said Father Aldo Buonaiuto. He is a member of the Pope John XXIII Association, a Catholic organization which combats black magic sects in 25 countries around the world. “With the arrival of Halloween, there is an increase in black magic rites, sacrilege and the adoration of Satan, as well as demonic possessions. During the period leading up to Halloween each year, the organization sees a sharp increase in the number of people calling its free phone number to express concerns about Satanism and the occult. Often they are parents who are worried about the behavior of their children.”
After participating in an International Conference of Exorcists convened in Rome in 2014 and held every other year, the Italian and Vatican exorcists called for a “new” holiday. Dubbing this new incarnation of Halloween as “Holyween,” the priests said that instead of skeletons and pumpkins and gore, families should display images of the saints, particularly Saint Michael, and allow their children to dress up as saints. They encouraged parishes to offer prayer vigils and special Masses on the day and families to hold their own prayer vigils in their homes.
Should Catholic kids go trick-or-treating?
Often parents say that as long as their kids are dressed up in cute costumes than there really isn’t any danger. How much danger is in “Little Moana”anyway? And that 2 year old dressed up like a little devil with the cute little pitchfork? He isn’t really inviting anything sinister. It’s innocent fun! But the international exorcists who met in Rome in 2016 for their biennial meeting say these children would be in more danger than you think.
Father Aldo Buonaiuto said even games like “Trick or Treat” were dangerous. “Halloween is the devil’s ‘trick’. Behind the carnival atmosphere is the dark world of horror and evil, the victory of death over life. Halloween is in opposition to Christianity.”
This is hardly the All Hallows Eve of Catholic origin. It is a complete take-over of a liturgical feast by evil. And evil, while having already lost the ultimate battle, still needs to be combated in the present.
Catholics combat evil in a variety of ways, and we will get to that in a minute, but first we need to establish that you never combat evil by participating in it. By enabling it. By brushing it off as inconsequential. Satan would love for us to downplay evil and as it sneaks incrementally into your life.
“Let us never forget that it is not only members of Satanic cults who enter into a spiritual relationship with Satan. A spiritual relationship with the devil can take place in various degrees,” said Fr. Jacek Stefanski. “It does not always have to end up in diabolical possession. But, as exorcists warn, exposing kids to something which has some kind of a demonic connotation, draws the risk of entering into a relationship with the devil. It is like a slightly open window that a thief sees from a distance: for him it a signal which he interprets as an invitation to enter into the house. Dressing up children in costumes of all kinds of evil spirits and creatures, hanging pumpkins outside the house with evil faces carved on them, is like sending an invitation card to the devil by express mail. We can be assured that the devil will get interested in the invitation.”
Are you totally freaked out?
At this point you’re probably thanking us for totally freaking you out. Maybe you’ve gone trick-or-treating for years, you’ve already picked out your ghost costume for this year and you’ve carved your pumpkin.
Don’t be afraid. In the Gospel, Christ told us, “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves” (Mat 10:16).
Satan and his demonic ilk are certainly crafty, smart, and persistent, but they are not more powerful than Jesus. Jesus has given authority to His Church, to His priests and His Bishops to directly combat Satan. According to Msgr. Esseff, American exorcist and President of the Milwaukee-based Pope Leo XIII Institute , “The only one that can overcome Satan is Jesus. He overcomes the kingdom of evil with light. And every priest represents Jesus. The devil does not see the priest — he sees Jesus.”
While the Devil and demonic activity are real and something we should be aware of, we should not allow ourselves to become fearful. Fear, too, can be manipulated by the Devil. Fr. Gabriel Amorth, who was the Chief Vatican exorcist and performed thousands of exorcisms, was once asked if he was ever afraid.
This was his epic answer: “Never. I have faith. I laugh at the demon and say to him, ‘I’ve got the Madonna on my side. I am called Gabriel. Go fight the Archangel Gabriel if you will.’ That usually shuts them up.”
If an exorcist who has personally confronted more demons than most of us could possibly fathom isn’t afraid of them, we shouldn’t be either.
So what can we do?
If you take the cautions of the international meeting of exorcists seriously you might want to make some changes to how Halloween is celebrated in your home. You might not want to call it “Holyween” (we know, it sounds a little lame), but “All Hallows Eve” still has a nice ring to it. Use the opportunity to create new traditions and to prepare for the Liturgical Feasts of All Saints Day and All Souls Day. If it is possible, receive the sacraments of Confession and the Holy Eucharist. Consider the approach you want to take to dressing up, how your children might participate and how you go about decorating.
Halloween is only one part of a larger spiritual battle. Here are some of the most important things you can do to fight the good fight each and every day:
- Pray! It cannot be said enough that prayer is the basis for our spiritual lives! Without prayer we cannot grow in Holiness. We become weak in our will to resist temptation and we fail to find and follow God’s Will. There is good reason why we are told to “Pray without ceasing!” We need prayer for our spiritual survival!
- Resist temptation. It is easy to get caught up in the drama of demonic activity and in doing so we forget that the most common and subtle form of demonic activity is temptation to sin!
- Receive the Sacraments! Particularly confession and communion. The sacraments fortify us and strengthen us in our fight against temptation and against the forces of evil. They restore us to Grace and render Satan powerless.
- The Rosary. Satan hates Mary, and with good reason. She is the woman who crushes his snakey little head! Exorcists tell us that Satan does not visit homes where family members pray the Rosary together, where the Bible as well as the Catechism are read regularly, and where all in the family practice their faith diligently.
- Sacramentals! We are tangible people. Using tangible things to assist us in prayer, and in creating a holy atmosphere is a long standing tradition in the Church. Holy Water, Blessed Salt, statues, pictures of the saints, rosary beads, St. Benedict Medals…all these Sacramentals are of no consequence by themselves, but when blessed and used as tangible signs of faith, they can be powerful tools in our battle against sin and death.
- Avoid! Some things needs to just be avoided. “Gateways” to the occult like Ouija Boards, Tarot Cards, superstitions, horoscopes, New Age Practices, Voodoo, Astrology, Amulets, Charms, Curanderos and Santeros Superstitious Cures, Hypnotism, Devil Worship, Pornography…these are some of the most mentioned gateways to demonic influence that must be avoided.