Liturgical Living: Hallowe'en Week

Oct. 28, Feast of Sts. Simon and Jude, Apostles.  St. Simon is patron of curriers, sawmen, sawyers, and tanners.  St. Jude is the patron of desperate situations, forgotten causes, hospital workers, hospitals, impossible causes, and the diocese of St. Petersburg in Florida ( holla!).

It's the opposite of a secret: Halloween is my favorite holiday.

Holiday--from the combination of the words "holy" and "day," meaning a holy day.  If you're Catholic, you know what that is.

(No!  It's not just an extra day to go to Mass in the middle of the week.)

But seriously, I've always been aware of the American Protestant tendency to shun Halloween as "of the devil" and shoplifted from Paganism.  In middle school, I eagerly read and enjoyed the book Save Halloween!, which gave me much insight into the super-conservative Protestant way of thinking.  I also had one or two friends who thought it on par with Satanism.

At the same time, I don't think I've ever seriously given much credence to these claims.  Even before my family enriched their lives by deepening their knowledge and practice of the Faith, Halloween was a precious time for me: a time for gathering in the warmth of home with family; for harvest and good things to eat; for running in the cold until fire burned deep in your belly, warming you from the inside out; for leaping into a kaleidoscope of crisp fallen leaves and the lacework of bare branches; for remembering, through cats and calaveras, that we are more than what we appear; for lighting candles against the growing dark and looking forward to Christmas.  In short, all the good things of childhood; and also a symbol, though one my young mind was yet to fully comprehend, of the temporariness of this world, and the looking forward to the World to come.

Cute, glow-in-the-dark, Halloween themed skeleton pajamas?  We are not amused. 

Well, more and more I've come across, not only Protestant, but Catholic opposition to the celebration of Hallowe'en--that is, All Hallows' Eve--and its liturgical pocket called Hallowmas.

The capable faithful, I am glad to say, have spoken out in disagreement against this Puritain-adopted tendency to repel anything that has remote connections or similarities with non-Christian sources.  Such opposition is a paradox: as we know that the Creator, in a sense, permeates His creation--and that one cannot look around the world and not see the Father reflected in it.

Similarly, the attempts of some of these Catholics and Protestants to reclaim Hallowe'en as a holy day of the Christian Church do so, perhaps unwittingly, at the expense of the reclamation itself--denouncing all ties to pre-Christian symbolism, either real or fabricated.

But more on that later.  This is but the introduction.  As part of my project on incorporating the medieval liturgical year into our everyday living, I intend to designate this entire week of blogging to Hallowtide and Hallowmas: Halloween, All Saints', and All Souls--the autumn triduum, if you will--with tips on how to decorate, favorites, and why I think being scared is sometimes good (hint: it's tied into fairy tales).  And of course lots of photographs!

Making a break with black-and-white motiff and doing a complete 180--lots of orange!

At least, that's my noble intention.  I'm a terrible one for commitments, so we'll see how it all unfolds.  In the meantime, check out what these worthy Papists have to say:

If anyone has any other relevant links, I'd love to know about them!



  1. Great post - I was just writing yesterday on the Protestant link of "demonizing" All Hallow's and how opening ourselves up to the amazingly mystical side of our faith gives us plenty of ways to keep on celebrating Halloween while being faithful. From here on out I will keep carving Jack o'Lanterns with my kids, but now I'll be making sure to tell them that they can be used to guide the souls of our loved ones (free to roam around from Purgatory for a while) back to our house so they'll be with us as we remember them and more during the rest of Hallowmas. Same goes for costumes - have to hide from the ones who want to play tricks on us!

    1. Oh Molly, I know. Mysticism and poetry is something the Eastern Church, I feel, is much more comfortable with than we are. Reason and clarity are beautiful, but God is also deep Mystery and unsettling Beauty and Awe.

      I was talking to my son tonight while carving our jack-o-lantern, explaining to him what Halloween was and that All Saints Day comes after it, and All Souls Day after that. He's only two and half, so I don't expect him to fully understand yet, but I want him to grow up wearing the liturgical year and the Christian mysteries like a second skin--instinctive.

      I think tomorrow evening when we light the jack-o-lantern, I will tell him that it's there to lead the holy souls so we can pray for them!

  2. Oh Christie! I'm SO excited to read your thoughts on Halloween!!!!

    We're having plenty of souls wandering over for prayers without jack-o-lanterns though..Yarrow keeps pointing out 'people' who make her sad, hiding among the birches in the failing light:

    "Why are you sad?"
    "That people. He's sad." (pointing to the trees, or the road, or the birch-path).
    "Should we pray for him?"
    "Yes! Pray, pray, JESUS!"
    Then she smiled, gave the Sad Person a long-distance hung and said "Love you TOO, people!"

    Adorably Halloween-y, but unsettling for sure..I like it better when she sees St. Patrick ;)

    1. I wonder if Afon sees the sad people, too. I catch him laughing and looking sometimes, at nothing in particular. It would make sense that children, being closer to God and clean of sin, can see saints, souls, and angels. Especially little Yarrow, she is so perceptive.

      I'm debating . . . are you going to leave out food for the dead that night? I'm wondering if we ought to, with Holy Water and saints' cards.

    2. Afon LOOKS like a child who sees sad people..and will for his whole life..he's so beautiful..and he has Those eyes..

      I am..we won't be home, because we're going to let Yarrow go trick-or-treating, and our street is the last place for that (5 lights) so we're going to my in-laws. But I'll put a pitcher of milk and some bread or cake out before we go..with the Autumnal Virgin to greet them. :) Most of our dead seem so friendly..and we've got Relics haunting our land everything's safe ;)

  3. Great thoughts on this Christie! I really liked your point on how the shunning of Halloween does destroy a bit of the wonder of childhood, and of course how it is such a puritanical reaction that Catholics should know better than to adopt! Looking forward to your thoughts, as usual living the liturgical year just makes life richer!


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