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October 29, 2004



I don't celebrate Halloween anymore. It's really Samhain, the pagan Festival of the Dead. I don't have anything to do with that. It's evil.

The impulse to "baptise" the pagan free-for-alls was okay on the way up, when the church was evangelizing Europe, but it stinks on the other side. It only confuses people when the culture is post-Christian.

We'd be tons better off teaching the Festivals of Life--Christmas and all the other Catholic Feastdays instead, and leaving Halloween for the dead.



Actually, Halloween is not Samhain, but the eve of the Christian feast of All Saints. Here's a page which refutes the notion that Halloween is evil:

Halloween: Myths, Monsters and Devils

Which includes this statement:

"Besides, there is some evidence that the Samhain holiday would actually occur (in the modern Gregorian calendar) on November 11 (Martinmas), which is regarded as "Old Samhain" in some Celtic countries."

For those of us who are not into parties, I've found an interesting Catholic way to "celebrate" Halloween - study and meditate on the Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Hell and Heaven. I recently bought a book on the Four Last Things by Fr. Martin Von Cochem (printed by TAN). If you want a good holy scare, this is the book to read!

Though it may not be for everyone; it strongly emphasizes God's Justice so those who read it have to bear in mind that God is also Infinite Divine Mercy.

In Jesu et Maria,

Sandra Miesel

If you don't like Halloween, try Day of the Dead and munch a candy skull. Poles and Italians--to cite but two Catholic areas--have elaborate customs and ritual foods to remember the dead in this season. Eat kutia (porridge)or beans of the dead (confections) and feast with the ancestors.
Samhain wasn't even consistently celebrated across Celtic lands and has virtually nothing to do with with current American Halloween practices.


Also, serious scholars have determined that a good deal of the erstwhile folklore dredged up a century ago about the pagan roots of these celebrations were fanciful extrapolations, exaggerations and fabrications. Much of what we have been taught as "historic" about these things is not more than several generations old....

Zhou De-Ming 周德明

I don't celebrate Halloween. I find that many of my American neighbors don't either. For those that do, it ie either (1) a fun time for kids to dress up in costumes and collect candies, or (2) a wild time for young adults to dress up and get drunk, etc.

In regard to respect for the dead, I much prefer the Asian custom of veneration (NOT worship) of ancestors, which is welcome in the Catholic Church.

Chinese ancestral ceremonies were the subject of controversy in the Church for 300 years. The controversy finally came to an end in 1939, when His Holiness Pope Pius XII gave formal permission for Chinese Catholics to participate in ceremonies honoring their ancestors.

As Catholic people, we do not "worship" our ancestors; worship is reserved for God alone. Through ancestral ceremonies we simply express in traditional Chinese ways our love and respect for those who helped to make us who we are today. If we forget them, we forget ourselves.

We can also see how beautifully love and respect for our ancestors fits in with our Catholic faith. Since God is the origin of all life, reverence for our ancestors is really reverence for our Creator. We could say too that the veneration of ancestors is just an extension of God's commandment that we honor our fathers and mothers. In addition, as Catholics we believe that when people die they become part of the communion of saints; while they share God's life in heaven, they remain involved in the lives of those still struggling on earth.

In my Diocese, the bishop presides at an annual Mass for the Chinese community which concludes with a ceremony of veneration of ancestors. This tradition continues even with our new bishop.

This ceremony takes place at the Chinese (Lunar) New Year, in Spring rather than in the Fall.

Of course, the celebration in my little diocese is not as big as Los Angeles.

After Communion, Cardinal Mahony, Our Lady of the Angels Region Auxiliary Bishop Edward Clark, and Bishop Wang participated in an ancestral veneration ritual along with elders from the Chinese community. The ritual featured presentation of incense, flowers, fruit and wine as well as honorary bows to the ancestors shrine which had been carried in as part of the church procession.

(Personally, I think the Chinese approach to veneration of the dead is much more dignified, orderly and, dare I say, "Holy" than the wild Celtic traditions.)


Halloween is the festival of candy! Don't know any kids who focus on the devil or the undead or zombies etc. The focus is on the goodies. Catholics should put more emphasis on All Saints and All Souls Day. Which is about Life, true life, but let the kids have fun...

Rod Dreher

I have to agree. We don't observe Halloween in our house. It has to do with the warnings, the multiple warnings, given to me over the years by an exorcist I knew. Fr. Termini was death on the subject of Halloween, which is something he had to deal with in his ministry (he died a few years back).

Here's a story I wrote in 1992 for The Washington Times, about the first time I met Fr. Termini. Regarding Halloween, here's the crucial passage:

Halloween is the most dangerous time of the year when it comes to
spiritual warfare, Father Termini says, because the ancient pagan festival is the night when Satan and his minions are most active - as are Satan worshipers.

"It's the time when Satanists practice human sacrifice, especially of children," the priest says. "We have satanic cells around here. They exist in all big cities."

That's the truth, says Sgt. C.P. Wilson of the Baton Rouge City
Police intelligence division. He refuses to discuss investigations in
detail, but does confirm that Father Termini's observations square with his experiences.

"This is difficult to talk about and deal with from a law enforcement
standpoint," the police officer says. "Some of the stuff is so
far-fetched, it's very difficult to convince people that it's really going on."

Zhou De-Ming 周德明

Another aspect of modern American Halloween is its embrace by the gay community. Perhaps this is just another modern reason for evangelicals to dislike Halloween

It has become a "Gay High Holy Day" according to an Episcopal blogger. There are big Gay Halloween events all weekend in major cities.

From a gay writer reflecting on Halloween in 1986:
My resolve weakened when, at seventeen, I rediscovered Halloween. Not the Halloween of little kids and candy corn, but the gay bacchanal of Halloween, our high holy day of costumes, frivolity and gaiety. The first Halloween in a gay men's bar mesmerized me, as I stared at dozens of imitation Carmen Mirandas, Judy Garlands, and Diane Ross's, to name but a few of the impersonators who ranged from mediocre to convincing.

But even more than the drag queens, I was taken in by the uncharacteristic abandon which defined the celebration. Carnival in Rio, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and Halloween in a gay bar share an energy level and vitality matched by few other celebrations.

Since my rediscovery of Halloween, rarely have I let the event pass unnoticed, and costume is de rigueur. I have been a lumberjack, a hockey player, and both ends of a camel. An appearance as Jackie Kennedy, complete with pink dress and pillbox hat, once scandalized and delighted a party (although I steadfastly resisted friends' efforts to smear ketchup on the outfit as exceeding the bounds of acceptable taste).

I've taken a particular liking to group costumes. I dressed as an Andrews sister and a Supreme with the same group of guys in successive years.


Here we go again with Rod and his exorcist. I'll say again what I (think) I said last Halloween, with a slight modification: If you're a journalist worth being kept on staff when 10 percent of your colleagues are laid off -- as happened last week at Rod's newspaper -- you either require Sgt. C.P. Wilson and Fr. Termini to produce the slightest shred of evidence that "human sacrifice, especially children" takes place at Halloween or you don't help them make wild claims in a newspaper.

Not even the Washington Times.



With all due respect to Fr. Termini, he was stating something that was widely believed at the time, yet which has come under serious question since then.

Throughout the 1980's and into the early 90's, numerous books were written detailing alleged Satanic ritual abuse, often dug up through "recovered memories". It soon became "common knowledge" in our culture that this kind of stuff went on under the cover of darkness. Yet multiple investigations by numerous law enforcement agencies over the years have failed to find any solid evidence of this, and the common psychological techniques used to recover "repressed memories" of such abuse have been discredited.

So I'm not surprised the good Father believed such things about Halloween back then; so did I. But a lot of that stuff turned out to be a combination of hype, hoax and False Memory Syndrome. Even Geraldo Rivera, who did a bunch of sensational programs way back when on Satanism and ritual murder, has recanted and apologized; see:

Geraldo Rivera: Satanic Ritual Abuse and Recovered Memories

Contrary to popular belief, most Satanists do not offer human sacrifice, or even animal sacrifice, for that matter. The only ones who do offer sacrifices are teenage "Satanist" wannabes who are very disturbed individuals to start with - and even they are more likely to kill a small animal than a human being. Adherents of the "Church of Satan", for instance, do not offer animal or human sacrifices. "Satanic ritual murder" is very rare at any time of the year.

In Jesu et Maria,

Rod Dreher

I understand, Rosemarie, and I don't know what to think of the claims made by the priest or the cop. Skepticism is certainly in order. Nevertheless, Father Termini told me that his team was busiest around Halloween and Mardi Gras, and whenever they would go to houses that were having poltergeist sorts of problems, they would tell the homeowners to get rid of anything they had in there having to do with Mardi Gras or Halloween. Doesn't matter to me whether or not anybody believes it. But that's what the old priest told me.

Sandra Miesel

There is an actual Satanic murderess in prison in Indiana but she killed a fellow Satanist, not in a ritual, and not at Halloween. We had one never-solved ritual murder of a carney roustabout, but not at Halloween. A teenage occultist and hger pals perpetrated one of the most hideous murders in the state but not as a ritual and not at Halloween.
The LA Nightstalker was a Satanist must it wasn't ritual activity nor connected with Halloween. The one highly publicized instance of Satantic ritual murders was that Matamoros cult in the 90s but it wasn't connected with Halloween. The famous case of families confessing ritual murders to a shrink from a major Chicago hospital was entirely a fabrication. The FRONTLINE report on same was one of the nastiest things I've seen on TV. The shrink got national recognition and awards at the time--and wasted $1M of public money on his hapless patients. The charges about 50,000 infants kidnapped and sacrificed by Satanists were utterly false.
For a look at the European version of this craze, see WITCHCRAFT AND MAGIC IN EUROPE: THE TWENIETH CENTURY, ed. Bengt Ankarloo and Stuart Clark. There were a few killings--of accused witches.



>>>they would tell the homeowners to get rid of anything they had in there having to do with Mardi Gras or Halloween

Actually, that advice might not be all bad, since people often associate Ouija boards and other such occult stuff with Halloween (I've heard of Ouija boards being used at Halloween parties, for instance). If there's some kind of supernatural activity in the house, perhaps one is "better off safe than sorry".

I'm puzzled as to why Mardi Gras would be considered particularly evil, though, since it is Shrove Tuesday. Lots of sinful stuff occurs as part of the festivities, true, but why would it be considered a time of occult activity? Perhaps a connection with New Orleans voodoo?

In Jesu et Maria,

Padre K

Interstingly enough, being from New Orleans, I find the notion of Mardi Gras and it's evils an interesting parlor enquiry. The same with Halloween. Dictionary.com (JP II does implore us to use the internet for good...) defines hallowed as "1)Sanctified; consecrated: a hallowed cemetery. 2)Highly venerated; sacrosanct: our hallowed war heroes." So, for Catholics to celebrate All Hallows Eve, the Eve of the Hallowed, the Saints, it's certainly a great feast.

Of course it had pagan beginnings; early pagan religions did not have either the fullness of revelation, nor the level of evangelization which we currently enjoy.

However, it's laughable to think that we need to succumb to pagan views regarding the fact that Christ has truly transformed the world. We are incarnated beings, we live in nature, we are graced with supernature; the world around us is dear and cherished and important. Of course we are going to bring Christ into ignorant pagan celebrations. It's our job!

What I find disturbing though, is twofold: 1)that there is such a high demand for consecrated hosts today, by non-Catholics. In our own parish, an altar server witnessed a woman taking a consecrated host out of Church several weeks ago. Giving communion, I try to watch and see what the person is doing if (and when) I do not know them personally. But there is only so much I can see, and when it appears consumed, what can you do? Do we turn Holy Communion into an airport boarding ritual? No.

2) that so many youths (and the not so youthful!) are hypnotized by new age-isms. I've talked with so many kids who have attended black masses, and parents who have kids who've experienced ritual abuse; and I've seen pagan sacraficial remains, which litter the streets of New Orleans at any given time...

People are ignorant to believe that there is no belief and adoration of the preternatural. It's food for thought, especially tomorrow. Um... through Tuesday.


Earth to Rod: Relax. It's just a holiday. I think you're being fed the old cops' tale about a full moon bringing out strange behavior.

Another blogger tells us, in quite serious tones, about "gay Halloween"--boy, there's a shock, that some gays would use Halloween to camp it up as Judy Garland.

I can happily report from the heart of red country that my children, all past trick-or-treating age, survived Halloween. They had a ball going door to door looking for goodies. It was a little spooky and scary for them at times, but so what?

None of them is is yet practicing Satanism, but I promise to keep you posted if there is breaking news.



The more I think about this, it seems to me that Fr. Termini could have been right about an increase in demonic activity around Halloween yet mistaken about Satanic human sacrifice.

Perhaps the increase occurs because more ordinary people seek to amuse themselves with occult practices (seances, Ouija boards, etc.) around Halloween, thinking it's just harmless fun. This could certainly open the door to more demonic activity.

I'm not saying that Satanism doesn't exist. It does, but the best estimates anyone can come up with reveal that it doesn't have too many adherents and that its numbers seem to have been in decline over the past few decades.

As for gays adopting Mardi Gras and Halloween, is that really so surprising? I mean, considering both holidays involve masquerade, and many gays like to dress up (drag queens, etc.). They also wear costumes to midnight showings of Rocky Horror and in Gay Pride parades. Masquerade seems to play a big role in "gay culture" for some reason, but that doesn't prove that either Shrove Tuesday or All Hallow's Eve are innately evil days.

In Jesu et Maria,

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