"The Church identifies blesseds and saints not for their benefit but for the Church's sake — to show that holiness is possible in every century, every walk of life, every part of the globe and every circumstance of life." Rev. Pat McClosky, O.F.M.

On Oct. 31st, an estimated 36 million children ages 5-13 will don spooky or silly costumes as they roam neighborhood streets in search for "tricks or treats." While the nation participates in rousing festivities, Christian parents wrestle with how to celebrate Halloween. Are we compromising our children's faithfulness to the Gospel by allowing them to dress as witches and vampires? Are we destroying our witness by showing up at the neighbor's doorstep disguised - thinly - as ghosts and goblins? Are we risking spiritual attack by participating in festivities that make light of sorcery, death, and demons?

The modern Halloween celebration certainly does not have the appearance of a Christian holiday. Every October the nation is bombarded with images that in fact, represent the very things the Christian faith warns believers against. Yet with the widespread celebration of Halloween, sitting at home is easier said than done. And opting out may result in even more guilt as parents remember their own innocent childhood revelry on October nights long ago. So many go in a third direction - hosting Christian or seasonal alternatives to Halloween.

The truth is, Halloween - in spite of its seemingly pagan appearance - is not only an ancient Church holiday but remains an important feast day in the Christian calendar to this very day. There's no need to ignore Halloween - instead, Christians can celebrate it in a manner consistent with the original purpose.

The Meaning of "Halloween"

In A.D. 741, the Church set aside Nov. 1st as "All Saint's Day" in honor of the great Christian heroes from the dark and bloody days of the early Church. The feast of All Saints is one of the earliest Christian holy days and was originally set on May 13th . But officials moved it to November to counteract the popular pagan festival Samhain that dominated Roman culture at that time.

In keeping with Jewish tradition, early Christian feast days began at sundown the night before. October 31st was set aside as "All Hallow's Eve" or the eve of "All Hallows." Over the centuries and throughout various cultures, Halloween festivities have adopted customs and lore from many different traditions. By the time Halloween became popular in America around the mid-1800's, its Christian focus was crowded out by myths, legends, and superstitions. But if we wade past the stories of Jack and his Lantern or witches cackling over brew, we will find real stories of lives lived for good in the face of evil.

Celebrating the Feast of All Saints

Those who get to "know" the early Christians are often surprised - and comforted - when they see past the old-fashioned robes to discover joys and struggles that sound familiar to our modern ears. Much wisdom can be gained from those who have "finished the race" (2Ti 4:7) and arrived at the finish line.

Families can pick a few Christian heroes of interest, and teach their children about their lives as well as the eras in which they lived. Then, as Halloween approaches, parents can throw an "All Saints' Party" to celebrate - requesting that attendees dress as their favorite Saint or Biblical character. Or families and friends can wear these costumes as they venture out into local neighborhoods for some old-fashioned trick-or-treating. Who knows what opportunities to share the Gospel could come your way?