Halloween is actually all about Holiness!
Most people have lost sight of just why we make a big deal of October 31st. You see, it’s not really about ghosts and witches and candy. It’s about saints. The word “hallow” means to make or to recognize as holy. All Hallows’ Day is an old name for All Saints’ Day (Nov. 1st)–the day we celebrate all the holy ones–and All Hallows’ Eve (shortened to “Halloween”) is like Christmas Eve, only for All Saints Day. It’s starting the celebration the night before, the way Jewish people did (they counted days from sunset to sunset).
Usually, a saint is honored on the day he or she died, because that’s the day they went home to Heaven, but there are far too many saints to fit onto the official calendar–and we don’t know everyone who’s in Heaven anyway. Some may even be people we’ve known here on earth–we hope so. That’s why we set aside All Saints’ Day every year, to honor everyone in Heaven, whether they’ve been canonized or not. And we start the celebration the night before, All Hallows Eve. That’s why most parishes have Mass on Halloween as well as All Saints’ Day. The saints and angels are where God is, and at holy Mass, Heaven and earth meet. God makes Himself Present to us, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist. The saints and angels are present at every Mass because that’s where God is. So that’s where we go to meet them.
Because All Souls Day (Nov. 2) follows All Saints Day, Halloween is also the Vigil of All Souls, which is where the images of the dead came into the celebration. While we celebrate those who are in Heaven, we also pray for those who are on their way to Heaven, whose souls are being purified in Purgatory.
Ways to Celebrate
Go to Mass! All Saints’ Day is a Holy Day of Obligation–you need to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice either on Halloween or All Saints’ Day (as if anyone should have to oblige us to participate in God’s feast of freedom!)
Decorate: The main color is white (the color of celebration). Red berries symbolize the wounds of Jesus that bought eternal life for us (also a reminder of the burning love that Mary has for her Son). Evergreen branches symbolize eternal life, candles symbolize the saints in light. Add symbols of the saints (rose for St. Rose of Lima, key for St. Peter, dog for St. Dominic, eagle for St. John the evangelist, etc.).
Learn about a saint (or several). The longer the story, the more interesting it will be (they’re more exciting than you might think!). Look up what they said and did. Ask them to pray for you–and for the rest of us!
Dress up as a saint. Tell “your” story & have people guess who you are.
Hold a candlelight procession of “saints” (in costume), praying the litany of the saints.
Think about Heaven (where the saints are & the Poor Souls long to be)–and how to get there.
Pray for the Poor Souls in Purgatory. This is the Vigil for their feast (All Souls Day) as well as for All Saints’ Day. Offer to pray for the departed loved ones of people you know. Consider praying in a cemetery (make sure it’s not closed!).
Think about your own death–your doorway to eternity–and about what will matter to you then.
Feast on “soul cakes” (doughnuts). The shape should remind us of eternity at every bite (since a circle has no beginning & no end). They’re called soul cakes because they were given in gratitude to those who prayed for the poor souls in Purgatory (“trick or treat”, without the tricks).
If you give out treats, attach a little note to each. One possibility: “This treat will pass away–store your treasures in Heaven where they’ll last forever (see Matthew 6:19-21)”.
Enjoy a bonfire. Remember the purifying fires of Purgatory and pray for those who are experiencing them. Go to Confession & make small sacrifices so you won’t spend much time there! Fire also symbolizes immortality and God’s passionate Love for us (the flame of His Sacred Heart).
Some Saint Symbols
St. Agnes: lamb
St. Anne: book (holy scripture, divine authorship)
St. Anthony of the Desert: bell (invitation, call to worship), pig
St. Anthony of Padua: Child Jesus, bread, book, lily
St. Augustine of Hippo: dove, child, shell, pen, book
St. Barbara: cannon
St. Bernard of Clairvaux: 1 to 3 mitres (bishoprics he refused), chained demon, bees, book, pen
St. Benedict: cup
St. Catherine of Siena: lily, book, ring, heart
St. Christopher: giant crudely dressed, torrent, tree, branch or large staff, carrying the Child Jesus on shoulder
Sts. Cosmas & Damian: phial, box of ointment
St. Daniel: lion (strength, fortitude, courage)
St. Dorothy of Caesarea: flowers (beauty, loveliness, miracle)
St. Elizabeth of Hungary: alms, flowers, bread, pitcher
St. Francis of Assisi: bird (nature, human souls)
St. Gabriel: “Ave Maria Gratia Plena” scroll (message to Mary)
St. George: slain dragon (defeat of Satan)
St. Gertrude of Nivelles: mouse (souls in purgatory)
St. Gregory the Great: dove (modesty, humility, meekness, innocence, divine inspiration, peace)
St. Hedwig of Andechs: convent (she built the first in Poland)
St. James the Lesser: saw (instrument of martyrdom)
St. Joan of Arc: shield (bravery, God’s protection)
St. John the Apostle: eagle (loftiness of his Gospel)
St. Joseph: carpenter square, lily (purity)
St. Jude the Apostle: ship (missionary journeys)
St. Lucy: lamp (light of Christ)
St. Luke: ox, book, brush, palette
St. Martin of Tours: goose
St. Matthew the Apostle: 3 money bags
St. Michael: flaming sword (power of God)
St. Nicholas: miter, 3 bags of gold, anchor, ship, shoes
St. Patrick: snake (Satan, sin, fall of Man, wisdom, falsity)
St. Paul: horse
St. Peter the Apostle: two crossed keys (Office of Keys)
St. Philip Neri: lily (purity of heart and soul)
St. Philomena: anchor (hope, instrument of martyrdom)
St. Raphael: fish (healing)
St. Teresa of Avila: heart, arrow, book
St. Therese of Lisieux: rose
St. Thomas Aquinas: chalice, monstrance, dove, ox
St. Thomas More: axe (instrument of martyrdom)
St. Vincent de Paul: children