Halloween: "All Hallow's Eve"
“I have neighbors who are fundamentalist Christians and feel that Halloween is evil. What is the church's position on Halloween?” Here are a few articles I found online that are related to this anonymous blogger's question. While I couldn't find comments directly from the Magisterium of the Church, I think that these articles give an historical and theological Christian perspective of Halloween.
"The true origins of Halloween lie with the ancient Celtic tribes who lived in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany. For the Celts, November 1 marked the beginning of a new year and the coming of winter. The night before the new year, they celebrated the festival of Samhain, Lord of the Dead. During this festival, Celts believed the souls of the dead—including ghosts, goblins and witches—returned to mingle with the living. In order to scare away the evil spirits, people would wear masks and light bonfires.
"When the Romans conquered the Celts, they added their own touches to the Samhain festival, such as making centerpieces out of apples and nuts for Pomona, the Roman goddess of the orchards... In 835, Pope Gregory IV moved the celebration for all the martyrs (later all saints) from May 13 to November 1. The night before became known as All Hallow’s Eve or “holy evening.” Eventually the name was shortened to the current Halloween. On November 2, the Church celebrates All Souls Day. The purpose of these feasts is to remember those who have died, whether they are officially recognized by the Church as saints or not. It is a celebration of the 'communion of saints', which reminds us that the Church is not bound by space or time.
"The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that through the communion of saints 'a perennial link of charity exists between the faithful who have already reached their heavenly home, those who are expiating their sins in purgatory and those who are still pilgrims on earth. Between them there is, too, an abundant exchange of all good things' (#1475)."
"The word Halloween is a contraction for All Hallows Eve, which, before the reform of the liturgical calendar following the Second Vatican Council, was the vigil of All Saints and All Souls Days. As such, Halloween can be considered a Christian holiday. As with many Christian holidays, the secular world has attached its own traditions to the day (costumes, trick-or-treating, parties) that are not intrinsically wrong but can become problematic when the religious meaning of the holiday is set aside or forgotten.
"Celebrated in the right way, Halloween can be a reminder of human mortality and the need for Christians to prepare themselves to face God. The festivities attached to the holiday can—like Mardi Gras for Lent—prepare Christians for All Saints and All Souls Days and for the month of November, which the Church traditionally has set aside for remembrance of the souls in purgatory.
"Celebrated in the wrong way, Halloween festivities also can distract from the meaning of the holiday. Christian parents have a variety of options for celebrating the holiday in a Christian spirit and should feel free to choose what works best for helping their families learn the 'reason for the season'."