Photo Credit: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=26899
I never had a clear position on whether Catholics can celebrate Halloween. On the one hand, most Halloween parties I have been to were just good, clean, spooky fun. Furthermore, I have a legitimate reason to celebrate Halloween: I was born on that day.
On the other hand, I see merit in the views that Halloween has links with the demonic, that Halloween parties can increase children’s threshold of tolerance for evil, and that it is better to pay attention to All Saints’ Day.
One reason I find it hard to decide whether celebrating Halloween is a good idea for Catholics is that there are diverse ways of doing it. There are those who observe what I call “hard core” Halloween, whose Halloween activities include tarot readings, Ouija board, and spirit of the glass. For others, Halloween is merely an occasion for scary stories, coupled with the fun of wearing costumes of all kinds and collecting candy – and, for those in northern countries, enjoying autumn weather. And yes, there are those who prefer to celebrate Halloween with saints-themed costume parties.
Obviously, no Catholic should have anything to do with the “hard core” Halloween celebrations. Obviously, too, saints-themed costumed parties are a wonderful idea, and not just for children – I sometimes wonder how a saint-themed costumed party for adults would turn out.
What about those whose Halloween celebrations fall somewhere in between – not “hard core” but not saints-themed either?
I believe that within the limits imposed by the Catholic Church – e.g., no real witchcraft, fortune-telling, divination, and other similar activities, and no exposing oneself unnecessarily to proximate occasions of sin – the question of whether to hold a Halloween party, and how to do it, rests on the prudential judgment of every individual Catholic, especially parents who have to decide these questions for their children. Personally, I would not require parents to bring their children to a saints-themed party, but at the same time, I respect parents who do not think a traditional Halloween party is good idea. After all, parents are the best judges of their children’s capacity to distinguish pretend-play from reality, their children’s vulnerability to Halloween spookiness, as well as how much spookiness to allow. Thus, for example, in planning the decorations, parents may decide that cotton cobwebs, plastic bats, and jack-o-lanterns are okay while fake bloody corpses are not. In planning their children’s costumes, parents may decide to allow some scary costumes like vampires and witches, but draw the line at devil costumes.
Still, the question lingers: is it appropriate at all for a Catholic to enjoy Halloween spookiness? By dressing up as frightening beings, putting up horror houses, and having fun scaring others, are we not glorifying evil even if we do not actually dabble in dark arts?
I think that to answer this question, distinctions must be made between glorifying evil and merely mimicking it. We must also remember that evil is a reality, and for us to deny that it is so facilitates, rather than hinders, the victory of evil.
For some, Halloween may be an occasion for dangerously mingling with evil. But for others, it could also be a healthy reminder of the spiritual warfare that we wage our entire lives. We comfortably and conveniently forget it, but throughout the entire year, and not just on October 31st, we must battle against forces dragging us to hell. We need the reminder that these forces are real, that they are scary, but that at the same time, we can fight and defeat them. In fact, we honor the victors every year on November 1st.
Photo credit: http://imagegator.net/free-clip-art-for-all-saints-day/9
Certainly All Saints’ Day is more important than Halloween. On All Saints’ Day, we honor those who have won their battles against evil, and we recall what will be in store for us if we, too, win ours. But Halloween can remind us of what we must fight against if we want to be saints. In this way, Halloween spookiness has its role to play in our lives as Catholics.
Meanwhile, as long as they avoid sin and practice prudence, there is no reason Catholics cannot enjoy themselves on October 31st of each year in the manner they choose.