A Catholic perspective on celebrating Halloween

Today is Halloween! Many families are donning their costumes and heading out for parties and trick-or-treating. As fun as the holiday can be, there are also some dark and eerie aspects that we want to avoid. How can we look at Halloween through the lens of our Catholic faith? Bishop David Konderla of the Diocese of Tulsa, Oklahoma, wrote a letter to the faithful in his diocese about this very topic, and joined Morning Air® to share some of his wisdom.

What does Halloween have to do with our Catholic faith? “The very word Halloween—the eve of the hallows, the eve of All Saints—indicates that it’s the beginning of celebrating the feast day … of All Saints which happens on November 1st. So our stance to the celebration is almost liturgical, or can be. It’s a stance that sees us looking towards the saints as models and intercessors and even as heroes. One of the things that’s popular for the celebration of Halloween in the United States is the use of costumes that are the heroes that are on the cartoons and movies, and we have our own large group of heroes in the saints that young men and young women can learn about, decide which one like best, which one fits their personality best and choose among them,” explains Bishop Konderla.

Halloween scene with pumpkinsIn some parts of the country there are Christians who believe that Halloween is rooted in evil and should be avoided altogether. How can we respond to such beliefs? “Well I think in our Catholic minds, we don’t divide the world into those things which we consider bad and evil and those things which are good, but rather we see some good in all the things God has created, when they’re used properly. And so, I think if a person is missing out on the relationship with saints, then they might be tempted to not find anything redeeming about the celebration of Halloween. But for us, as Catholics, we fortunately don’t have to make that kind of choice between celebrating Halloween at all or celebrating it in a way that we would say is more proper to us as disciples of Jesus Christ.”

The celebration of Halloween can be rather ghoulish and dark, so how can we celebrate in a way that is festive, fun, and in line with our faith? “We don’t glorify death; we are saddened by death, of ourselves and the death of those we love, but we are buoyed up in hope and joy by the promise of the Resurrection. So I think parents can use the opportunity to teach their children to be able to recognize death. Take for instance the celebration of the Day of the Dead. In some cultures, that even happens in the cemetery and it’s complete with skulls and candy and cakes and things made to look like skulls, because skulls remind us of death which is the end of this life, but always with an eye to the promise of the Resurrection. So I think if we teach the children to understand even the gothic aspects of Halloween, how that connects to our faith, then they can at least celebrate without glorifying it but just use it as part of the celebration.”

The holiday can be a great way to teach your kids and grandkids about trust in God, even when they are scared. “We are surrounded by movies and cartoons and books … with goblins and ghouls and ghosts and all kinds of scary things. Those are not, strictly speaking, they’re not representing reality as it is. God is the one who has created everything as it is, from nothing, and God has created it to be good and ordered and in service to us. So we can have great confidence in the world that God has created and reject those aspects of the culture around us that introduce things that come from our literature and come from our imagination but are not true to the world that we live in.”

Hear the full conversation, including how parents can help to focus their families on the feast of All Saints, here: