Christianity, Religion

Your Guide to Catholic Holidays on Death

Your Guide to Catholic Holidays on Death

So Halloween is coming up as I’m sure every little kid in America is fully aware, but there are many people who hesitate to celebrate this holiday believing it to be a Satanic Devil-worshiping day (which in fact Satanists don’t actually worship the Devil but that’s a whole ‘nother blog post!) or they feel it is a Catholic cover up of the Celtic Samhain (ehhh a little bit actually). Anyways, you can choose to practice any holiday any way you choose but if you want a little history lesson read on.

P.S. If you are one of those people who hates Catholics, this blog post will really do nothing for you because the next three holidays are all about Catholics. However, if you want to hate Catholics less, please, continue reading!


All Hallow’s Eve

Halloween is the modern-day term for All Hallows Eve = the night before All Hallows (Holy…Saints) Day. It was a night of preparation for the following day (see below) which is about remembering the dead in heaven. So totally not Satanic.

Many people think that Halloween is the Catholic “cover up” for the Celtic pagan Samhain, the current celebration of Halloween certainly has a ton of similarities to Samhain (which totally doesn’t bother me because Easter, St. Valentine’s Day, & Christmas all have pagan elements but I digress). Essentially, when the Catholic church was expanding (read: conquering) it incorporated local pagan traditions into the growing religions to accommodate the new worshipers. By the point that Catholicism ended up in Ireland, the Catholic Church already had a day to pray for the dead and they just moved the holiday up to coincide with the time of Samhain. Samhain was a fall Celtic holiday when it was believed the veil between the living and the death was at its thinnest, therefore you had to take special measures to ward off any evil dead spirits.

With the mass immigration of Italians and Irish Catholics to America in the 19th century came the celebration of Halloween, because the “original” Puritans literally outlawed all holidays. Their European traditions mixed with the New World environment, such as carving pumpkins, and voila you have the development of the modern Halloween. In comes Party City & large-scale candy companies and you’ve got the commercialization of this All Saints’ Vigil.

Funny enough Samhain is a harvest-based festival so all those churches who are trying to do “anti-Halloween Harvest Festival” parties kinda doing Samhain parties. . .juss’ sayin’. But hey, I don’t care, keep on bobbing for apples if it makes you happy.

Read more: Happy Halloween! A Cabin in the Woods Weekend

Cloisters altar and saintsThe Trinity Adored by All Saints, Spanish Painter, c. 1400MFA-saints color statues

All Saints’ Day

The Catholic Church celebrates like a bajillion “official” saints who they believe are in heaven with God and today is their party! Now the word “saint” can apply to other people, but this is the day to mostly celebrate those who are recognized in heaven with God. Saints are something that are very Catholic (and one of my favorite things!). The Lutheran and Anglican (Episcopalian) Churches have some of them too but I don’t know if or what they do for All Saints’ Day.

This is a holy day of obligation, which means for practicing Catholics, it’s a day to go to mass. Now in all honesty, I only started doing this like last year so I don’t blame ya if you’re reading this and go WHATTTT! I haven’t really beefed up my All Saints’ Day at home celebrations but I’ve got ideas. 🙂

For those of you who watched Coco and fell in love with Día de los Muertos, it is the Mexican celebration of All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day, which is also kind of a mix between some pre-Columbian traditions Aztec/Maya practices and Catholicism.

Read more: Student Series! Saints & Disease: Pray the Pain Away

IMG_8232All Souls' Day, Ferdinand Georg Waldmuller, 1839

All Souls’ Day

There is a lot of theology behind this that I am not going into but the gist is this: Catholics believe they can pray for the dead to help them get into heaven. This day is really focused on the souls in purgatory (Protestants don’t have this so it confuses a lot of people). This day is a bit more somber because it focuses on souls who are still trying to be (painfully) cleansed before entering into heaven. All Saints’ & All Souls’ Days kick off a month-long concentration on the souls of the departed.

This is not a holy day of obligation but many people go to mass if they have a loved one who passed away in the last year. One thing I am going to do at home this year is an All Souls’ candle (which I totally ripped this off of Pinterest) where we write the names of our dead loved ones and burn it all November to remember to pray for them.

Read more: Catholic Culture: Remembering All Souls’ Day


So if you feel so inclined to practice Halloween, no matter what Christian denomination, go right ahead! And if you are Catholic and you want to add these days to your liturgical living hopefully this blog post has helped.




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