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Speaking Out: Putting the halo back in Halloween

By  Peter Wilson, Youth Speak News
  • October 27, 2021

What is Halloween? What is the meaning of this mysterious holiday dedicated to goblins, gremlins and ghouls? 

Theories of its origins range far and wide. Some say it began with the Christian observance of All Souls and All Saints Day, a time of year dedicated to honouring the dead. 

Others say it stems from the ancient pagan Celtic festival of Samhain, which is celebrated on Oct. 31 and marks the end of the year’s so-called “bright half” and the beginning of the colder “dark months” of winter. Celtic legends hold that tombs would magically open during the festival and from them would emerge spirits from the Otherworld. 

Either of these could serve as the main influence on Halloween as we know it today. But for our purposes, the distinction doesn’t matter. 

Halloween has evolved into an event that is utterly alone in its categorization. What other holiday celebrates death, let alone with the vigour and brutishness Halloween does each year? 

One could argue that if the general public is the decent and upstanding Dr. Jekyll, then Halloween is Mr. Hyde. With its obsession with violence and death, Halloween serves as an alter ego for society to safely express its fascination with the macabre. It’s one night to abandon all presupposed notions of goodness and decency and indulge in the adrenaline rush that comes with facing our greatest fears. 

As Catholics, what should we think? Let’s explore.

Growing up, my mother always maintained a sense of wariness towards Halloween. I suppose there was something off-putting about seeing her diligently-raised Catholic children turn into toothless witches and blood-thirsty vampires on the last night of every October. But trick or treating was never off-limits. In fact, none of the traditional Halloween festivities were taboo. We carved crooked smiles on pumpkins, candied devilishly sweet apples and adorned our front porch with rubber spiders.

So how did my mother make Wilson Halloweens different? Simple. She never lost sight of her Catholic values. 

Halloween always took a backseat to our faith. For many years, my mother would take us to daily Mass. While most of these Masses were at 7:30 a.m., Wednesdays were an anomaly at 7:30 in the evening. And for my mother, daily Mass was an event that trumped all others. Skipping was not an option. 

In 2007, Oct. 31 fatefully fell on a Wednesday. Six-year-old me may have been disappointed at the prospect of missing out on free candy, but my mother didn’t think twice. There wasn’t a chance she’d allow her children to abandon Mass and dress up as monsters and devils. 

Three years later in 2010, faith once again eclipsed Halloween as it fell on a Sunday. With an unwavering spirit, my mother held her ground against the complaints of her children. She maintained that she would not allow The Lord’s Day to be profaned by the celebration of a paganist holiday. 

While my mother may have believed Halloween had pagan roots, it didn’t stop her from noticing that its modern name is derived from “All Hallows Eve” — the eve of All Saints Day. Armed with this knowledge, she turned Halloween into a celebration of the saints rather than gargoyles. 

One year, she required my siblings and I to dress up as saints if we wished to trick or treat. And not only did we have to dress like saints, but we also had to label ourselves as such so that candy-giving neighbours would suffer no confusion in deciphering our costumes. 

Beyond just forbidding wearing costumes of evil characters, Catholic parents should capitalize upon the opportunity to educate their children about the saints and let them have fun while doing it.

(Wilson, 20, is studying for his Bachelor of Catholic Studies degree at Seat of Wisdom College in Barry’s Bay, Ont.)

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