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Is Halloween rooted in Christianity?

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'What is the proper response to a culture of death?'

Father Steve Grunow believes Halloween has deeply Catholic roots despite the wide-spread belief that the holiday originated from pagan celebrations.

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LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Father Grunow, CEO of Word on Fire, was interviewed by Word on Fire and said, "The origin and traditional customs associated with Halloween require no other explanation than that they are examples of the kinds of festivity that served as a means of celebrating the various holy days of the Catholic Liturgical Year ...

"I would draw a distinction between the violent, macabre imagery that characterizes the modern appropriation of Halloween as a kind of secular celebration and the more traditional customs that are characteristic of a Catholic cultural ethos.

"The descent of Halloween in to the madness of an annual fright fest is a relatively recent development, but the true substance of Halloween belongs to the Church. Halloween is the festive precursor to the celebration of the Church's public commemoration of All Saints Day."

He goes on to say the association of Halloween with paganism is directly related to the Protestant Reformation. "The Protestant reformers were concerned about the practices of medieval Christianity that seemed contrary to what they believed the Church should be."

When asked what Halloween's relation to All Saints Day was, Father Grunow replied, "Halloween is the precursor to All Saints Day and as such is kind of like what December 24th is to Christmas Day. Remember, the calendar of the Church is filled with festival days, all of which were once associated with great, public celebrations. A holy day of obligation has not always meant spending 45 minutes in church for Mass and then going back to work.

"Holy Days were times for a party and if you look at the Church's calendar, past and present, with this ethos in mind you will discover that the reasons for a party happened with great frequency..."
For decades there has been a trend for parents boycotting Halloween festivities because of the associations to paganism. There are also safety concerns with people possibly poisoning candy, hiding razor blades in candied apples or worse. 

Halloween: Pagan or Catholic origins?

Father Grunow touched on parental concerns, saying, "There is a lot that is unsavory about the contemporary celebration of Halloween ... What does the focus on violence, horror and death have to say about our culture? The traditional, Catholic Halloween placed these realities within the context of Christ's victory over sin, death and the devil ... It looks very much like a festival of death for a culture of death and for that reason I can see why parents might be concerned.

Deacon Keith Fournier Hi readers, it seems you use Catholic Online a lot; that's great! It's a little awkward to ask, but we need your help. If you have already donated, we sincerely thank you. We're not salespeople, but we depend on donations averaging $14.76 and fewer than 1% of readers give. If you donate just $5.00, the price of your coffee, Catholic Online School could keep thriving. Thank you. Help Now >

"But what is a proper response to a culture of death? To lock the Church behind closed doors or to let her out into the world? I think it is time for Catholics to accept the religious liberties that this culture claims to afford them and go public with their own festivals - and to do so dramatically and with a great deal of public fervor. What is holding us back? What are we afraid will happen? 

"The reticence and fear that characterizes Catholics is costing the Church its unique culture and it is allowing the culture of death to flourish. Halloween should not be a day when our churches go dark and Christians retreat into the shadows, but when we fill the darkness with Christ's light and go out into the culture, inviting everyone to the prepare [sic] for the festival of the Saints with all the joy we can muster."

In closing, Father Grunow reminds us that Christ's "love is stronger than death. The power of  his divine life dispels evil. Even as we gaze into the shadows we see his light."

The entire interview can be found here. Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below. 

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