Halloween and the presence of darkness

It is fall and the leaves are falling off the trees. At the end of October, it has become customary to celebrate Halloween. The celebration of this day is a uniquely American thing. In fact, our Halloween is a combination of a number of festive days that originated in Europe which were then mixed together in the New World.

Of course, the word Halloween means “All Hallow’s Eve,” the day before the great Catholic feast of All Saints Day on Nov. 1. Whereas All Saints Day is a celebration of holiness, Halloween seems to have taken on the opposite approach recently. As every year passes, it appears that many seem to think of this day as a celebration of death, violence and evil.

Now, I am not saying that there is anything wrong with children dressing up in a decent costume and going door-to-door looking for candy. It is the stuff of family traditions and memories and it is fun! However, it is alarming how the culture of Halloween has otherwise changed in recent times. An observation:

More and more, I see houses decorated with dead bodies, tombstones, figures hanged from nooses in trees and demons and devilish figures on the front lawn. I am not talking about decorating with cornstalks, pumpkins, scarecrows, or even “friendly ghosts,” but with evil, scary and wicked things. The question that comes to my mind is: “Why would somebody want to do this?”

Certainly it is a fad, and like all fads the use of one’s intelligence is optional. But still, why do so many people feel so compelled to decorate their homes with symbols of death, evil and violence? Are they laughing at death or are they worshipping it?

Perhaps people don’t even realize what they are doing. It seems to me that a person who decorates his or her house in this manner had better do some soul searching. Perhaps they might ask themselves, “Why am I so fascinated with death? Why do I have figures of evil and violence in my front yard? How does this reflect my Christian faith which abhors violence, looks to the resurrection of the dead, and which stands in opposition to the Devil?”

Perhaps those who feel compelled to decorate their houses in such a manner or to wear devilish or violent costumes are just mindlessly following the crowd. Such a pity. I assume that those who fall into the glorification of death at Halloween would never think to visit an actual cemetery and pray for those who have died.

My guess is that individuals who spend hundreds of dollars decorating their houses each year and making them as evil looking as possible probably are not donating hundreds of dollars to care for the innocent victims of evil and violence around the world. And my hunch, and this is just a hunch, is that there is a direct correlation between the violence, death and evil that is sometimes depicted around our homes or in our costumes at Halloween — and the presence of darkness in our souls.

Fr. Girotti, who serves as vicar for canonical services and associate moderator of the Curia, is author of “A Shepherd Tends His Flock.”

  • peg saindon

    Dear Father Girotti, I agree that the dark side of Halloween is taking over. Which makes me very sad. As a child growing up in the 1950s in Chicago in a predominantly Catholic neighborhood, Halloween was a special and wonderful holiday. My Irish grandmother brought many Celtic customs with her and the celebration of Halloween was just one. She baked “soul cakes” for us. They were very plain but some butter and jam made them delightful. We dressed as “ghosts” (holy souls) in worn out sheets or table cloths. We did go door to door and we did say “trick or treat” but many good folks gave us pennies or nickels, as well as candy, and asked us to light vigil candles at church for their deceased loved ones. November 1st was All Saints’ Day and we loved that day also. For one we didn’t have to go to school since it was a Holy Day and secondly it was my beloved mother’s birthday and we thought that was an amazing day on which to be born. I hope that the “holy” side of Halloween will again come into the forefront, but like Christmas, just because it is secularized doesn’t mean we should not celebrate it.