• Devin O'Donnell

On Halloween, All Saints Day, and Harvest Festivals

Updated: Nov 2, 2021

Happy All Saints' Day! Yesterday was "All Hallows Eve" (the day before All Saint's Day) and the origin for our word "Halloween." The Anglo-Saxon word, "gehālgod," is where we get our word, "hallowed," as in the Lord's petition, "Hallowed be Thy name." Although we still retain the older form of "hallow," the word simply means, "holy," which is a form we more commonly use to expressed that something is special and set apart. In this sense, it's important to remember that Halloween was traditionally a Christian "holy-day." However, as our current civilization continues to decline and disintegrate before our very eyes, many Christians struggle with what we are supposed to do with a celebration such as Halloween.

There are several ways to approach this and to tackle them all is not within the scope of this unread blog. First, recall that there are more categories in which to think than simply "sin" and "not sin." Scripture also enjoins us to think in terms of what is "wise" and "foolish." It may be, for instance, that celebrating Halloween is not sin but unwise. It may also be the case that it can be both "wise" and "not a sin" to celebrate Halloween. In order to be wise, however, one needs historical context.

Celebrating "Harvest Festivals" in our church communities may prove to be an alternative "Benedict Option," a parallel godly celebration compared to that of the world's degeneracy. But the cost of this option is that it severs the connection to "Halloween's" historical Christian context. Furthermore, Harvest Festivals decoupled from the liturgical Church calendar often cast into obscurity any wisdom we might glean from the rediscovery of our historical context.

Perhaps the problem is that we have let the World redefine Halloween. The world is too much with us. We can see that the Church has lost its voice in politics and in public life insofar as it has also lost its love and observance of the Church calendar. We have forgotten the true significance of many such holidays, the sense of sacred time where leisure elevated our animal existence to transcendent heights. If we are to worship God in spirit and in truth, perhaps we need to return once more to the true meaning of things. Remember, any calendar and the significance of its events shows the cultus of a culture, that is, the thing that binds a culture together in worship. The Christian calendar saw fit that it should tell a story, the story of the life, death, resurrection of Christ. As the last day on the Church Calendar, All Saint's Day is where we celebrate the final victory of Christ over the devil through his saints–saints both living and departed. It is a wonderful reminder that we are part of world that belongs to merely to the living, but to the dead, the living, and those yet to come.

One way to make sure we can celebrate Halloween without falling into some worldly revelry of darkness is to make "All Hallow's Day" equal to that of "Hallow's Eve." This is not to suggest that we can keep up the trick or treating for another day. It means remembering these days went together, that even some significant events in Church history took place during their observance, all of which will only serve to make Christian culture a distinctly more beautiful reality than what the world can offer. Don't just celebrate the worldly version of Halloween. Celebrate All Saints Day too. Keep the feast, and celebrate what form of All Saint's Day makes sense in your ecclesiological tradition.

The reason is simple. Without Christ, the culture dies. As our thin secular veneer continues to be stripped away, society will become increasingly religious. Without this Halloween's situated meaning in the church calendar, coming before All Saints Day, then Halloween only become more and more pagan, likely even worse than pagan. Harvest Festivals—the name itself sounds like a ritual to Demeter—may not be enough. Inventing new holidays seems no defense against a return to paganism, a new "modern" paganism without the gods and without the consolation of beauty.

Agenda for Monday:

  1. Prayer & Catechism

  2. Work in pairs on Matthew Genealogy Worksheet

  3. Read Till We Have Faces silently: be through Chapter 17 by end of Tuesday.

  4. Oral Reviews

  5. A verbal review and examination of material studied in Quarter 1 of Traditio, primarily the most recent concepts in Bible (Hermeneutics) and a discussion of the Dig Deep Reading books (Literature).

  6. Choose your Poetry Out Loud selections by end this week

  7. Remember the HW!

Agenda for Tuesday:

  1. Prayer & Catechism

  2. Copy questions 8 & 9 in "Antiqui Voces"

  3. How then shall we live in light of the great men of the past?

  4. What can modern man learn from ancient heroes?

  5. Work on Commonplaces: 20 for this week

  6. Read silently while we conference

  7. Till We Have Faces silently: be through Chapter 17 by end of Tuesday.

  8. Dig Deep 2

  9. Oral Reviews

  10. A verbal review and examination of material studied in Quarter 1 of Traditio, primarily the most recent concepts in Bible (Hermeneutics) and a discussion of the Dig Deep Reading books (Literature).

  11. Choose your Poetry Out Loud selections by end this week

  12. Remember the HW!


  1. Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect. Pray, that you may not stumble.

  2. Prepare for Oral Reviews next week!

  3. They will focus on concepts in Hermeneutics and Literature, especially focusing on a discussion of your Dig Deep readings

  4. Choose your Poetry Out Loud selections by end this week


The image of a devil in the face of a cathedral would seem odd, even for gothic architecture, unless one understands the meaning of the Church's eschatological triumph over the world, the flesh, and the devil. This image depicts the Biblical promise to the Church: "God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet" (Romans 16:20), which was traditionally one of the celebratory purposes of Halloween.

Notre Dame Cathedral. A saint treading down a devil.

Consider Fuseli's imagining of might be the causes of a nightmare. Today our rationalistic scientists might look at nightmare's as a having only material causes. But we as Christians know better, that much of the physical events of the world have spiritual causes.

This also raises the question, quid est Halloween? When we look at how our culture, if one can call it that, celebrates this day, we are confronted with an anachronistic and moral problem: How are we as Christians supposed to think about such a holiday that is marked by such impure show and often gratuitously violent images? (See thoughts above)

FUSELI, John Henry The Nightmare 1780-81 Oil on canvas, 77 x 64 cm Goethe-Museum, Frankfurt

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