Catholics and Halloween have a long history, starting way back to when Halloween was known as All Hallow's Eve and was just the night before All Saints Day and the day before All Souls Day. Both of these celebrations in the church have a rich history and a special place in our liturgy.
But what are they?
All Hallow's Eve (Halloween)
Depending on where an individual was in the world, this evening could be a night of merriment or a solemn vigil. The concept of dressing up has several different origins, but my personal favorite is that children would dress up like a variety of saints who would be celebrated the next day. In some countries, children would go from door to door to beg for soul cakes or other treats. Many families would celebrate within their homes with large meal and sweets, leading up to the big event the following day.
All Saints Day
All Saints Day is celebrates, simply put, all saints. Which means all those who have attained heaven, even those who are not known or recognized as saints. This could be your grandmother or other distant relative. Anyone who has attained heaven is a saint, regardless of whether or not they have been recognized. That is why this day is a Holy Day of Obligation. We celebrate all those who attained the ultimate goal, to rejoin Jesus in Heaven!
All Souls Day
If All Saints Day is for all those who have already attained Heaven, it stands to reason that All Souls Day is a day of prayer for all of those who not yet attained Heaven. Purgatory is the "in-between" where people who have the stain of minor sins on their soul go. There is a lot that can be discussed about Purgatory, but we can talk about that another time. Masses on this day are for all those souls caught in-between and in need of prayers before they can finally reach Heaven. Essentially, we are helping our brothers and sisters who still need sanctification before they can return home.
But wait! What about Dia de Los Muertos? The Day of the Dead!
The Day of the Dead in the Catholic faith is All Souls Day although there are pretty incredible traditions in Latin American culture that are less Catholic and more of a hybrid between Latin and Native traditions that celebrate the life and history of those who have passed away, as well provide spiritual support for them on their journey. No different than what we do when celebrate the Mass and pray for those who have passed away.
Halloween, as fun as it is, is much more than a night of tricks and treats. There is a rich Catholic heritage to be shared and celebrated. If anything, don't forget that November 1st is a Holy Day and take a little extra time to pray for those who died on November 2nd.