Father Steve Grunow on Halloween and Catholicism
The origin and traditional customs associated with Halloween require no other explanation than that they are examples of the kinds of festivity that served as a means of celebrating the various holy days of the Catholic Liturgical Year. This includes everything from masquerades, feasting, and the associations of a given day of the year with supernatural or spiritual truths.Posted by Jill Fallon at October 31, 2012 3:22 PM | Permalink
I would draw a distinction between the violent, macabre imagery that characterizes the modern appropriation of Halloween as a kind of secular celebration and the more traditional customs that are characteristic of a Catholic cultural ethos. The descent of Halloween into the madness of an annual fright fest is a relatively recent development, but the true substance of Halloween belongs to the Church. Halloween (or “All Hallows Eve”) is the festive precursor to the celebration of the Church’s public commemoration of All Saints Day.
I think that the association of Halloween with paganism has much more to do with the Protestant Reformation than anything else.
it was Catholics pulling back from their own festival that gave rise to the contemporary version of Halloween. The goulash version of the festival that we have today is in many respects a result of Catholic accommodation to a Protestant culture. And in a another strange twist in the history of Halloween, most everything that the devout Protestant detests about Halloween have become all the more pronounced as a result of their protests.
In terms of customs that a specific to Catholicism, it is all pretty much derivative from the kinds of stuff that you find in the public festivities of Catholic culture. In this regard Mardi Gras is probably the best point of reference. We think of Mardi Gras and its attendant festivities as specific to one day, but it used to be that that kind of festival environment occurred with great frequency throughout the Church’s year. Think of all the customs associated with Halloween as a Mardi Gras before All Saints Day and I think you get a perspective in regards to all the excess and tomfoolery. The party was meant to culminate in Solemn Worship, after which one returned to the routine of life. Unfortunately, the Church has surrendered the party to the secular culture. It has happened with Halloween. It is happening with Christmas.