Boo: on the commercialization of Halloween

For years, people have decried the commercialization of Christmas.  Now, it’s Halloween’s turn.

A priest from Bakersfield, CA takes note of this phenomenon:

The Roman Catholic Church in a sense baptized numerous customs of the cultures which were converted, as long as they were not in open conflict with the gospel and doctrines of the faith. This essentially allowed the faith to spread more quickly. This is how Easter acquired Easter eggs and the Easter bunny, and Christmas acquired holly, elves, and so on. The church sought to make Halloween a vigil or preparation for the celebration of All Saints and All Souls days. What has occurred in practice, however, is the All Saints and All Souls holy days of Nov. 1 and Nov. 2 retained their true meaning, while Oct. 31 continued to be celebrated more in its pagan elements, rather than its infused, baptized Christian meaning.

What is to be our attitude toward Halloween today? Like Easter and Christmas, Halloween has been heavily secularized and commercialized. Of the three holidays, it has had the weakest link to its Christian moorings. The Roman Catholic Church has historically tolerated the faithful participating in the usual Halloween traditions. But the Roman Catholic Church seeks ardently to catechize its members on the true meaning of All Saints and All Souls, what is referred to as the “Communion of Souls and Saints.”

Both the living and the dead are united as one body around Christ. Death does not separate us from our loved ones. In addition we believe that all souls in heaven (by definition, everyone in heaven is a saint) care about those still on earth, and pray or intercede on our behalf. In the final analysis, we in the clergy would very much like to see children raised to understand the true meaning of Christian death and the afterlife, and to celebrate Halloween in that light.

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4 responses to “Boo: on the commercialization of Halloween”

  1. Oct. 31 continues to be celebrated more in its pagan elements because that’s what Samhain and “Samhain lite aka Halloween” is and always was. It has no organic connection to the mythologies and history of Christianity beyond a very shallow attempt to appropriate it for its own purposes. One can certainly make the case that Madison Avenue has usurped the day for its own ends, but the Church is hardly the aggrieved party in such a complaint.

  2. I find it rather hollow to complain about “pagan influences” as if that is always a bad thing. The Church has always looked at Christ as the expectation of the nations, and in those nations, all kinds of hints of Christ and his coming can be found – and used by the Church. The Church does not go all negative of the idea of pagan adaptation — if it did, the West must be really bad for its use of transubstantiation to explain communion!

    The signs of symbols of Halloween go quite well with Christian sympathies. The fact that humans also like to celebrate and have fun and create ways to celebrate should not be hindered by also used to remind everyone of the greater joy found in Christ. We don’t need to be puritan-like sourpusses. We need to be Christ-like liberators!

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