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Celebrating Halloween Meaningfully

November 1, 2021

Fr Leonard E Dollentas

Undas is the Filipino term for Día de Todos Los Santos or All Saints’ Day. It is derived from the Spanish word “honrar” meaning “to honor”. Filipinos never distinguished the celebration on November 1 and 2: for them, both days are days dedicated to praying to the saints as well as praying for the repose of their dead relatives. These days and the one before and one after are spent visiting the graves of deceased relatives, where prayers and flowers are offered, candles are lit and the graves are cleaned, repaired, and repainted.

All Saints’ Day is a solemn holy day of the Catholic Church celebrated annually on November 1. It should not be confused with All Souls’ Day, which is observed on November 2 and is dedicated to those who have died and needed more prayers and purification to reach heaven.

All Saints’ Day, in the Roman Catholic Church, is officially the Solemnity of All Saints. The day is also called All Hallows or Hallowmas (“Hallows” meaning “saints,” and “mas” meaning “Mass”; the preceding evening called Halloween is the “Vigil or Eve of All Hallows.”) The day of All Hallows, or All Saints’ Day, is celebrated in honor of all the saints, known and unknown. Hence, the true spirit of Halloween belongs to the Catholic Church and thus excludes the violence, gore, sensuality, or demonism now commonly associated with Halloween.

In Western Christian Churches, All Saints’ Day commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in Heaven. It is a national holiday in many historically Catholic countries. Catholics celebrate All Saints’ Day and observe All Souls’ Day in the fundamental belief in the Communion of Saints, that the living have prayerful spiritual communion with those who have died in the state of grace and are in heaven (the Church Triumphant). The same communion is extended to those who have died with venial sin or the debt of temporal punishment but are being purified in purgatory (the Church Suffering). The Church Militant are the living who pray constantly for the intercession of the saints and are expected to pray benevolently for those who have died.  

All Saints’ Day is a Holy Day of Obligation in the Roman Catholic Church, but not all countries observe such. When it is considered as a holiday of obligation, going to Mass on the date is required unless one has a good reason to be excused from that obligation, such as illness. In a number of countries that do list All Saints’ Day as a Holy Day of Obligation, the solemnity of All Saints’ Day is transferred to the adjacent Sunday if 1 November falls on a Monday or a Saturday, and the obligation to attend Mass is abrogated. All Saints Day will again be on a Monday in 2022 and on a Saturday in 2025. On those days, Catholics will be excused from Mass on those days, if they wish. 

(Photo credits: My Catholic Life! Used with permission)