Halloween & All Saints Day – UPDATED

Girlfriend needs to take a day off; I need to pray, play, rest and regroup – pull it together if I am going to be of any use at all for next week’s elections and its aftermath or the ongoing shenanigans all around us, so today is a good day to read and consider signing this letter to politicians, and then veg-out and consider all things Halloween-y.

I love Halloween for the fun of it, and also for the shivery edge to it that most of us don’t think about much but which Mark Shea notes well, here:

To be sure, much of the business is good clean fun, what with running around visiting the neighbors, getting candy and bobbing for apples. But there’s also that other side of it, that makes people surf the web looking for creepy “Tales of the Unexplained” that are found, not on the fiction pages, but on those sites that relate some weird story of a haunting or other paranormal event with straight-faced “just the facts, ma’am” sobriety that insists the thing really happened. It’s the night where people—even jolly happy godless secularists—take a moment and wonder if, really, after all, there might just be something to this whole “supernatural” thing.

The other thing I love about All Hallow’s Eve is the next day: All Saints Day. That is a holy day of obligation that I particularly love, because there is an intimacy to it. In blustery weather, usually damp and chill, the Catholics troop to mass and remember those who came before us. It’s like spiritually visiting the graves of our beloved. We remember the stories and remember where we have come from, and that helps us to remember who we are. It helps remind us that we want to keep walking the straight, narrow path that will unite us all before the throne!

And there is something about coming out of that mass and looking around; there is at autumn in full swing – the leaves baring, showing upraised arms that look like our prayers of supplication; there are the busy people in busy cars, zooming by indifferently, and somehow I feel so connected to all of the trees and all of the people. I feel at one with them, privileged to have been able to stop, remember and pray, in and for a world so busy, so indifferent, and so nakedly needful. I step out of the All Saints Day mass and feel a oneness that makes me feel, for however briefly it lasts, a keen and wistful love for the whole world.

I hope you can make it to mass on All Saints Day–even if your bishop has dispensed with the obligation, because it falls on a Monday (!)–so you will taste a little of that. Meantime, let’s have some Halloween focus!

A three-parter (really) on how Halloween and candy became best-friends

Bishop Kevin Farrell writes at his blog:

In the Middle Ages there was a popular belief that on All Souls Day the souls in Purgatory could appear on earth as will-o-the-wisps, witches, ghosts and all sorts of things to those people who had wronged them during their lifetimes. At some point, these customs slipped into the All Saints Celebration called Halloween.

So this weekend when the little ghoulies and ghosties are out they remind us of the suffering souls in Purgatory who need our prayers.

Tim Dalrymple on spooky Harry Potter!

That reminds me, I still think Harry needed to die in Book 7:

Christ moved the narrative of the world, too. The narrative movers rarely get to live out an ordinary sort of life once things have shifted – more often than not, they die. Resurrection is uncommon.

Aggies Catholics: What has happened to Halloween?

Frank Weathers: Remembering the Martyrs of Douai College:

Top Ten Ways: to have a Catholic Halloween

Strolling with the kid and encountering mystery:

Perhaps Christianity chased the gods and sprites away, or forced them to assume different forms, but it never did so entirely. And, after all, Paul never suggested that the elemental powers or ethereal principalities were illusions; he merely claimed that they had been made subject to Christ. The author of Colossians even seems to say that they have now been reconciled to God. As for the Enlightenment, whatever one imagines that might be, on this issue it marks not an advance from ignorance to understanding, but only a mutation of conceptual paradigms.

Christine Valters Paintner, a Benedictine Oblate, writes:

We are surrounded by a great “cloud of witnesses” Paul’s letter to the Hebrews (12:1) tells us. We don’t often make room for the honoring of ancestors or valuing what connection to the stories of our past might bring to us. For me, honoring the Communion of Saints means recognizing that the lives lived before mine matter. It means remembering that there is ancient wisdom wrought from generations of engagement and struggle with life. We can call upon those who have confronted the great mystery of being across time.

Pagan writer Star Foster takes a look at Halloween from a very different perspective, although she too notes the remembrances of the day with similar language and sentiment:

We’ve sanitized the whole idea and process of death in this age. We no longer prepare our loved ones’ bodies, dig their graves, or even keep the grave tidy and clean. We pay people to do these things so we never have to deal with the palpable reality of death. We remove ourselves from the experience. We keep photos and move on, essentially keeping the dead divorced from our lives. We tell ourselves it’s healthy to move past the dead and forward into the future.

Yet it is our past that gives us strength. Think of all the ancestors who live in your DNA, contributing their genes to create the highly unique expression of humanity that you are. Think of the traditions, decisions, battles, and ideas that have shaped your life which originate from those long ago passed away. Even if you choose not to honor those who have gone before, the dead are with you every day.

A good reason to pray the litany of saints!

Inside Catholic has a slew of Halloweeny links

PJTV: Best Scary Movies of All Time


John Zmirak, at Inside Catholic

Halloween provokes contention among American Christians to this day. Some homeschooling friends of mine confessed to me that they felt torn over whether or not to let their son dress up and go trick-or-treating; their Protestant friends kept telling them that this holiday was pagan or even Satanic. And given their theology, you can see their point: The souls of the dead are either in Heaven — in which case they’re not walking the earth and need not be appeased, represented, mocked, or even commemorated, depending on which reading you give to the way we Catholics appropriated old pagan customs that marked this time of year– or else they’re in Hell, and not worth remembering. Anyone who’s dead and suffering deserves it, and will go on suffering forever. There’s no sense in attracting his attention.

We, on the other hand, picture the Church in three unequal slices: a golden sliver, already enjoying beatitude; we dung-spattered soldiers still slogging through the trenches here on earth; and the vast military hospital where most of us hope to end up, a very big tent indeed where souls heal from the damage they did themselves on earth and are made whole enough to be welcomed into Heaven. When we do ourselves up in costumes and tromp through the streets on Halloween, we are marching in a kind of Veterans’ Day Parade in honor of the sinners who went before us, not yet into glory but into the painful, therapeutic shadow it casts outside its doors.

Also, Fr. James Martin on All Saints Day

Msgr Charles Pope: has more:

Part of the reason that I see it as harmless fun is rooted in my experience. Back when I was a kid in the 1960s and early 1970s we would often dress in ghoulish costumes and attempt to look as frightening as possible. One year I went about as a skeleton. My grandfather, who was a doctor had an plastic skeleton of a hand that was very realistic. I would hold it in my hand and pull my shirt over my real hand. It was so real looking that people often wondered if my hand was horribly injured for real. Another year I was a zombie. Another year a ruthless pirate. There were a few years where I dressed more mildly as an astronaut and a Navy officer. But it was all good fun. Even in the ghoulish years it never occurred to me that the “dark side” was attractive or that devil worship was in my future.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Pingback: Tweets that mention The Anchoress | A First Things Blog -- Topsy.com

  • Andrew B

    I was in line at the store behind a large, loud woman who was proudly proclaiming that her family “has NOTHING to do with Hallowe’en!” How sad for her, and for her family.

    I think that Hallowe’en is a vitally important step, a clear turning in the calendar. The dark is encroaching, and the cold follows with it. Nature is shrugging off her summer plenty and slipping into the widow’s garb of winter. We can ignore it, but we can’t stop it.

    I choose to embrace it. My home is currently a riot of orange and black, with skeletons, pumpkins and black cats occupying every flat surface. Sunday, after carving the Jack-O-Lantern, I will dim the lights and read “The Devil and Daniel Webster” while waiting for trick-or-treaters.

    On Monday, after remembering my departed loved ones, it will be time to put away all the spooky stuff for another year. Then onward and upwards, to Advent and Christmas and into the New Year.

    How delicious.

  • http://www.noodlingonit.com Kris, in New England

    Oh Anchoress, no. Harry had to live as the ultimate triumph over evil. I fully expected him to die and was relieved that she didn’t go there.

  • http://vita-nostra-in-ecclesia.blogspot.com Bender

    Don’t know what PJTV thinks is the scariest movies since they want me to register just to find out. No thanks.

    But I will say that the most scariest movies are not the slasher films or the monster films, but the supernatural ones, the ones where you have no control, and can have no control, over things because there are other worldly powers involved.

    There was one from a long, long time ago — “Crowhaven Farm,” starring Hope Lange. It was one of those made-for-TV movies for the “ABC Movie of the Week.” Really scary, especially for a kid watching it.

  • Andrew B


    “Crowhaven Farm” has haunted me since childhood, especially since I had a raging crush on Hope Lange. It was–and still is, since I found a rental copy a few years ago–truly terrifying. The only thing that surpassed it for me was another “ABC Movie of the Week”, “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” with Kim Darby.

    It made me…well…afraid of the dark.

    And I still am.

  • jane

    Sorry, guys, to be the lone curmudgeon.

    I hate Hallowe’en.

    I love All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days and would like to note that in the Catholic schools I teach in (as a supply) I found not one word about either holy day in the teachers’ lesson plans, even when I was teaching religion. So, I would talk about how Hallowe’en was/is All Hallows Evening. Today, little ghouls and goblins would be walking the school halls (I was off today), with probably nothing to indicate to them that Hallowe’en actually has deep Christian antecedents.

    The other problem I have with this night, is that it is the “high (un)holy” night when Celtic pagans, Wiccans, and Satanists “celebrate” Samhain. It’s well-known that animal sacrifices increase on this night and other nasty things; just ask the police.

    Being close to a man of the cloth, I know what a dark night Hallowe’en is, not just because it’s at the end of October and we’re heading into winter. It is spiritually dark. I always find myself praying for the protection of our children when they’re out trick-or-treating.

  • Roz Smith

    I feel sorry for kids today because Halloween has been taken over by adults, either that or it has been taken over by real fears, now matter how misplaced or based entirely on urban legends. Today it is all store bought costumes and supervised parties. That or it’s trick and treating in daylight with the parents along and them inspecting every piece of candy received.

  • zmama

    At our parish school where my daughter attends , every year the second graders who are the first sacraments candidates hold a “saints museum” where they dress up as their favorite saint and recite facts they have researched re. their saint to the visitors to the “museum”. Last year was our daughter’s turn and the whole experience was wonderful. This year in 3rd grade the students are each assigned a saint and learn how to put a power point presentation together to share their saint with their classmates and parents.That will be in 2 weeks and I look forward to it. Last year our daughter dressed as St. Therese, one of her patron saints and this year I was very excited when she happened to be assigned one of my other favorite saints, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, technically not officially a saint, but hopefully soon.
    Another thing that is unusual about our parish is we are one of the only parishes in our archdiocese to have a cemetary on the parish grounds. In order to get to the school, every day the children have to walk from the parking lot past the church through the cemetary. Years ago when I went to a neighboring parish school I thought it would be kind of creepy to have a school right next to a cemetary but now I think it is beautiful. My grandparents are buried there as are 2 aunts and an uncle. My parents will be buried there someday. A dear friend of ours is buried there as are the remains of the 3rd baby I miscarried. Each day walking past the cemetary to school and back with my daughter I am reminded of those loved ones who came before us and I pray for them and I also ask for their intercession that Jesus bless me more each day to be the best mother I can be for our daughter.

  • jane

    zmama, many Catholic schools do something similar to your daughter’s school, which I find edifying. When I taught in a private Catholic school, founded as an antidote to the tepid Catholicism found in the schools in the “public” Catholic Board, we also encouraged each child to dress as a saint and share their saint’s story with the rest of the class.

    When my daughters were young, I wasn’t a Catholic and, of course, they wanted to go out on Hallowe’en, which was fine with me, except that I limited their costumes to non-creepy, non-pagan, non-violent themes. They went as angels, one of the Beatles, a Dutch girl, a cat, etc.

    I understand the fun that Hallowe’en can be, I just think that the envelope’s being stretched these days to include rather destructive levels of violence and degradation, which wasn’t the case when I was young. The horror movies our kids watch and the computer and video games they play seem to have desensitized many young people to the fear (healthy, IMO) of violence, blood, guts, and gore.

    An example of what I’m talking about, is the 8th Annual Zombie Walk in my city, which happened last weekend. My husband and I got caught up in it, quite by accident, and witnessed a steady stream of 6000 people dressed as zombies, with accessories of severed arms and legs dripping with blood which many of them were “gnawing” on. (I always thought that zombies were bloodless, but never mind.) The lurching, stumbling living dead were creepy alright and the most disturbing thing was the small children dressed as mini-zombies with blood dripping everywhere, .

    Watching this parade of blood-and-guts debauchery, it seemed to be the antithesis of Paul’s exhortation in Philippians 4:8: Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

  • Sal

    I have to agree with jane and zmama-
    the adults and the adultolescents have taken over Halloween, to our detriment. Because some people simply don’t know when to stop.

    That said, the recognition of the downslope of the year is touching and apt. Devoted gardener, I see that naturally- even here in Zone 8, where I’m still harvesting okra in almost November. Pulling up the brave volunteers from summer’s vegs to put in the cover crops, taking down the annual vines, gathering up all the garden impedimenta, like trellises and grids, all the things involved in putting the garden to bed for the winter- all that is meditatively symbolic of last ends.

    Love the Inside Catholic snippet- what a wonderful explanation!

  • http://motherofthechurch.blogspot.com Pat

    I completely agree with you, Anchoress. Harry needed to die. I feel the only reasons she could have for keeping him alive are:
    1-just in case she wants/needs more money there’s always a possible sequel
    2-she’s pandering to the fans.

    As for Halloween, it’s not my cup of tea, but I don’t dislike it. I can appreciate some aspects of it. It has definitely been hijacked by adults though, which is truly sad.

  • http://allwellbeing.com/ Douglas (Watkins)

    Pot-popcorn. It’s no joke. Candy, cookies and other snacks laced with marijuana are turning up in Southern California.

    L.A. County Sheriff’s narcotic detectives say they have confiscated lots of it. The label on one packet of kettle corn read: “Extremely Potent, Especially Delicious.”

    Some of the treats come with a sticker warning to keep them out of the hands of children. Others come with suspicious labels, or none at all.

    Narcotics investigators said the danger is that these treats contain varying concentrations of marijuana and are often produced in unsanitary conditions.

    They warn children can become very ill from eating these marijuana-laced products


  • Pingback: Halloween Madness: Political Cartoons of Our Ghoulish Government, Plus Boris Karloff’s “Monster Mash” Song with Vintage Halloween Video Footage « Frugal Café Blog Zone

  • Pingback: Three Masses Three Days « Da Techguy's Blog

  • Elaine S.

    Proving once again that in Illinois (as elsewhere), Election Day can be more frightening than Halloween:

    While out trick or treating with Dear Daughter tonight, I spotted a young boy in a curious costume: a suit and tie, a black wig, and what appeared to be a sort of cage or barrel constructed of cardboard painted metallic gray. It took me several minutes to figure out who he was supposed to be: Gov. Blago behind bars!

  • Pingback: Steynian 427nd « Free Canuckistan!