The Catholic Roots of Halloween


About a year ago, I had someone sit down and explain some of the Christian origins of Halloween and it changed the way I look at this holiday. I realized we have a third option for the way we navigate it as Christians. It doesn’t have to be something completely evil that we need to stray away from, and it doesn’t also have to be about candy. It can actually be a holiday that helps us grow in holiness, and that’s what it was originally intended for in the first place.

I want to share with you three things about the Catholic roots of Halloween and offer you some practical ways that you and your family can celebrate this holiday to help you grow in your faith.

Halloween is a Vigil for All Saint’s Day

The first one is the idea of Vigil. So we as Catholics have roots in Judaism and the Jews celebrate their holy day, the Sabbath, on Saturday, but they actually start celebrating the night before. So when the sun goes down on Friday, that’s when the Sabbath begins for them and they start praying the prayers of Sabbath on Friday night. We, as a Catholic Church, do the same thing every week. Our holy day is on Sunday, but if you pray the Church’s official prayer, the Liturgy of the Hours, the prayers for Sunday actually start Saturday night. Every weekend we offer Vigil Masses on Saturdays, it’s the same set of reading and the same prayers that will be prayed on Sunday. We’re celebrating that feast or holy day the night before.

Think of Christmas Eve. Same thing. We’re filled with anticipation and we’re starting to begin the celebration of Christmas the night before Christmas actually happens. I think the best example is the Easter Vigil. It’s the richest liturgy, the richest mass we have as Catholics and it’s celebrated the night before. We, as Catholics, recognize that this “eve” or this night before, we’re starting already to participate in the day that is to come. Why am I talking about all this?

The night before all Saint’s Day, we as a Church are supposed to be preparing to celebrate the Communion of Saints already in Heaven with God.

Halloween actually comes from the phrase All Hallow’s Eve. What is the day after Halloween? November 1st, which is All Saint’s Day. The night before all Saint’s Day, we as a Church are supposed to be preparing to celebrate the Communion of Saints already in Heaven with God. It’s all “hallows”, so all “holy”, eve. That’s what we should be thinking about as a Church on Halloween. Nobody ever told me that as a kid! I was so frustrated that I didn’t put two and two together, but we should be, even on Halloween night, thinking “Okay, tomorrow we’re going to be celebrating all these great saints!”

Something you can do as a family is talk about the saints. Talk to them about the fact that these people who have died are alive in heaven with God. You could talk about specific saints, you could have your kids ask for the intercession of particular saints. You can start doing all of that the night before in anticipation for the feast that is to come.

The Original Trick or Treating

The second thing is this idea of kindness and prayer offered to the body of Christ here in the world, to the other people in our lives. It has to do with history of trick or treating. Originally trick or treating was a form of fall caroling, so for Christmas people traditionally sing Christmas hymns. This is something would do on All Hallow’s Eve. They would sing hymns, offer prayers and sometimes acts of service for the people in the house. The exchange would be that the people in the house would give them cookies or cider. That was originally what trick or treating was, and you can still do that now today with your children.

When you are trick or treating, ask people if they have any prayer intentions.

You can say, you can go trick or treating, but be praying for the people who’s houses you are going to. You could even ask people if they have prayer intentions. Or even tell them you’re praying for them! If you want to be really bold you could hand out Bible verses, I know people who do that. They say, “Hey, we’re praying for you. Here’s a Bible verse.”

Or just tell your children to be praying as they go from house to house, but it’s a way for us to be kind to our brothers and sisters here in the world and to lift them all up and for them to grow in holiness and move forward to Heaven.

Carving Pumpkins and Praying for Others

The last thing is the idea of prayer for those who are in Purgatory, or for those who have passed on. That we hope they are on their way to sainthood or we want to pray and help them on their way to sainthood. Again, I didn’t know this was an origin of something that happens on Halloween. The candles that we put inside of pumpkins are intended to be votive candles. Candles were lit in memory of a loved one who has passed on and they are a sign of our prayers for that person.

 Talk with your children and explain they can still show love to family members or friends who have passed away. There is still a way for us to be connected to them because they are still very much alive.

People would carve into pumpkins either a face to represent their loved one or something that their loved one was fond of to remind them to pray for that person. This can be a beautiful opportunity for you to talk with your children that they can still show love to their family members or friends who may have passed away. There is still a way for us to be connected to them because they are still very much alive. We want to pray for them to grow in holiness that they can move towards Heaven, that they can be saints as well.

These are some ways we can get back to the Catholic roots of Halloween and grow in holiness this holiday. Next week, Taylor will be talking more about All Saint’s Day and so as we approach All Hallow’s Eve and All Saint’s Day we will be praying for you at Ablaze. Happy All Hallow’s Eve!

[tweetthis]Halloween isn’t something evil we need to stay away from, and it doesn’t have to just be about candy. #parenting[/tweetthis]

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