The true substance of the Holiday of Halloween belongs to the Catholic Church.

The word “holiday” comes from the words holy day. The word “Halloween” comes from All Hallows Eve. All Hallows Eve is the vigil of all Saints Day also known as All Hallows Day. The word “hallow” means ‘holy”. (“In the Our Father we pray, “Hallowed by thy name.”)

All Saints Day is a Holy Day of Obligation, and thus a major fest on the catholic Church’s liturgical calendar.  All Saints Day honors not only the saints in heaven whom we know by name, but also any saints in heaven whose names are unknown. Halloween is an October 31st Because All Saints Day is November 1st.

All Souls Day is on November 2nd.These three Days taken together are a triduum of feasts also called Allhallowtide, Hallowtide, or Hallowmas  (Hallow meaning saint or holy and mass meaning Mass).

Halloween is, therefore, the first day of Allhallowtide, the time of year when the living(the Church Militant) honors all the dead in Christ: the saints in heaven (the Church Triumphant)  as well as all the holy souls detained in purgatory on their way to heaven (the Church Suffering). It is a beautiful celebration of the Communion of Saints, and praying for a deceased loved one on All Souls Day. It was customary in historic Catholic Europe to have evening vigils with pious celebrations on the day before a major feast  or solemnity: the rhythms of people’s lives and culture moved with the liturgical calendar. That’s why a vigil was kept the evening before All Saints Day – and why Halloween exists at all.

Even today, Catholics begin celebrating major feast the evening before the big day.

Christmas has Christmas Eve. All Hallows Day has All Hallows Eve.

The Catechism has a lot to say about the characteristics of heroic virtue and holiness of life that create the Church’s saints. It also has a lot to say about Christ’s victory over sin, death, and the devil. These are the kinds of things that the festivities of Catholic Halloween should be celebrating with great gusto and panache. Celebrating these Christian holy days helps remind the faithful of the reality of heaven and hell, the saints and the damned, demons and angels, and the holy souls, suffering in purgatory.

It reminds us to pray for the souls of the deceased. It is also a reminder that we, too, will one day die, and should always strive to live good and holy lives so that we can be ready to enter eternity and stand before God.

It’s a day to reflect on Christ’s triumph over sin, death, and the Devil, to meditate on our mortality and duties to God; to shun sin, Satan, and all his works; to give honor to the saints in heaven; to pray for the souls of the faithful departed in purgatory. And of course to have fun with joyful feasting and merriment!


From the Bulletin dated October 29-30, 2022 St. John’s Catholic Church, Greenfield Iowa

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