Moving Halloween to Saturday: Treat or Trick?

In recent years Halloween has gone from a primarily child-oriented holiday to an occasion of commercial importance comparable to Christmas or Easter. National retail sales figures indicate that Halloween is the 6th biggest holiday for retailers — behind Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day — and rapidly gaining ground, particularly among young adults.

The trend has now sparked a movement of sorts — led by the Spirit Halloween retail chain — to move Halloween permanently to the last Saturday in October. Their online petition at this link (http://www.spirithalloweekend.com/ ) asks Congress to lend its official endorsement to the change, although that would not be strictly necessary since Halloween is not a federal or national holiday.

The main arguments in favor of the switch are that 1) it would make life easier for kids and parents if Halloween did not fall on a school or work day, and 2) it would mean more income for costume shops, candy stores, bars, movie theaters, and other establishments that make money from the holiday.

Not addressed is the effect such a move would have upon the religious significance of Halloween, which by definition is the “eve of All Hallows” or All Saints Day on Nov. 1.

Some Christians argue that with the emphasis that the modern Halloween places on partying, ghost and horror stories, paganism, witchcraft, and other forms of evil, it would be better to separate Halloween completely from All Saints Day or any Christian observance. Others, including myself, would argue that the occult/evil character of the modern Halloween is all the more reason for the Church NOT to cede any ground, and to use it as a ready-made occasion for reflection upon our beliefs concerning death and the hereafter, the communion of saints, and praying for the departed.

After all, wasn’t that the original idea behind the Church “baptizing” the ancient Celtic feast of Samhain and turning it into All Saints Day in the first place? As G. K. Chesterton wrote in “The Catholic Church and Conversion”:

“I think I am the sort of man who came to Christ from Pan and Dionysus and not from Luther and Laud; that the conversion I understand is that of the Pagan and not the Puritan; and upon that antique conversion is founded the whole world that we know…. On the height of that ancient empire and that international experience humanity had a vision. It has not had another; but only quarrels about that one. Paganism was the largest thing in the world and Christianity was larger; and everything else has been comparatively small.”

Also, attempts to reschedule holidays for convenience or for commercial reasons are nothing new and have always sparked opposition from those who felt a change would desecrate or dishonor the occasion it was meant to commemorate. Most recently this occurred about 40 years ago when the Federal government moved several established holidays such as Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays, Memorial Day, and Columbus Day to Mondays.

Another notable holiday controversy occurred in 1939, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in response to appeals from retailers who wanted to extend the holiday shopping season, moved Thanksgiving Day from the last Thursday in November – the date originally set by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 – to the previous (third or fourth) Thursday. Acceptance of or opposition to the change tended to fall along partisan lines, with the earlier date dubbed “Democrat Thanksgiving” or “Franksgiving” and the later date “Republican Thanksgiving.” The dispute was not finally resolved until 1944, when FDR and Congress agreed on the current fourth Thursday in November observance. However, some states continued to observe the later date until the mid-1950s.

Even religious holidays are not “sacred” in the sense of being unchangeable or universal. Eastern and Western Christians observe Christmas on different dates (Dec. 25 in the West, Jan. 6 in the East) and usually have different dates for Easter or Pascha (as much as five weeks apart).

In the U.S. solemnities such as Corpus Christi, the Feast of the Holy Family, Epiphany, and (in some dioceses) the Ascension have been moved to Sunday. The U.S. bishops have also removed the obligation to attend Mass on All Saints Day and some other holy days of obligation if they fall on a Saturday or Monday –- primarily for the convenience of priests so they do not have a back to back full Mass schedule, and to avoid confusion among the faithful as to which Mass “counts” for what solemnity.

If a Saturday Halloween observance were to become established in the U.S., I presume there would be nothing preventing the USCCB from deciding to observe the Solemnity of All Saints on the following Sunday regardless of the actual date. Although that would take some getting used to, and would be regarded by some as sacrilegious, I would not be opposed to this for the reason mentioned above – I think Halloween and All Saints should remain linked, and Halloween need not be surrendered to pagans, Satanists, or to commercial interests alone.

What do you think of these changes? Is moving religious, popular, or civic holidays around for the sake of convenience a good pastoral move, a concession to worldliness and indifference, or does it make that much difference?

15 Responses to Moving Halloween to Saturday: Treat or Trick?

  • Darn, I wish Spirit Halloween had a combox. Darn, darn, darn!

  • I vote (B) a concession to worldliness and indifference.
    Vigils, feast days, birthdays… the actual dates count for something. I enjoy a movable feast as much as the next guy, but it should have a better excuse behind it than grubbing for cash or extending the weekend.

  • Remember that they then consolidated both Abraham Lincoln’s and George Washington’s birthdays to “President’s Day”.

  • Halloween and All Saints have a particular significance for me since my wedding anniversay falls on All Saints. If they change it, I will have to come up with some other way to remember, so I vote no. Or maybe I can convince my wife to celebrate the solemnity of our marriage along with All Saints, rather than the actual day of our wedding?

  • I think you make a compelling argument overall. Actually changed my mind, as a matter of fact.

    As to changing the date – I actually find it to be more confusing. When I’m looking at my calendar, it’s so much easier to assess the fixed-date holidays as compared to the floating ones. “Which weekend is that on this year?”

  • For the record, I also would vote “no”.

  • Also, I really need to give credit here to Todd Aglialoro, now a writer for Inside Catholic, who many years ago when he worked for the Peoria Diocese Family Life Office, wrote a column for The Catholic Post titled “How Halloween Is a Very Catholic Thing.”

    It was in that article that I first came across the quote from Chesterton on paganism and Christianity. Unfortunately, I cannot find this article online anywhere, and I no longer have print back issues of The Post to refer to.

    If you happen to be reading this, Todd, thanks for the inspiration, and can you tell me where to find that article?

  • Instead of moving Halloween to Saturday, it needs to be moved right off the calendar. There is nothing good about it- junk food for kids, wild parties for adults, strangers ringing your doorbell all evening, drunks in the ER all night. Once again, America has taken a religious day and turned it into a mockery.

  • I understand your concerns, Annie, but by your standards, St. Patrick’s Day should probably be “moved right off the calendar” too.

    It lacks only junk food for kids and strangers ringing your doorbell… although strangers in an adjacent apartment who start their St. Paddy’s Day party at 2 in the afternoon are just as annoying :-) Likewise, it too is a religious holiday that has been pretty much turned into a caricature of itself, at least in the U.S.

    Also, I read somewhere many years ago that the government of Ireland, back in the late 50s or early 60s, briefly considered moving St. Patrick’s Day to September so there would be better weather for outdoor celebrations! Needless to say, that didn’t fly.

  • And speaking of moving holidays to weekends — if I remember correctly, students at U. of Ill. in Champaign observe something called “Unofficial St. Patrick’s Day” on the Friday or Saturday closest to the actual St. Paddy’s Day. The observance consists entirely of hanging out in bars and getting as drunk as possible.

    I suppose that no matter what happens to the Spirit Halloween petition drive, the preceding Saturday will become, if it hasn’t already, “Unofficial Halloween” for adult partying purposes anyway.

  • Goodness, perhaps someday the secularists will wish to ensure “Christmas,” which they will call “The Winter Holiday,” always falls on Friday so everyone gets a 3 day weekend.

    Awfully pesky the way things are now, when Dec. 25 can fall on a Wednesday. Once you remove the religious significance of these holidays, there’s no point to keeping to a set date.

  • Some of you should read up on history a bit.

    The reality is that the Church chose Dec 25th for Christmas in an attempt to add religious meaning to an already existent pagan holiday. There is circumstantial evidence that Jesus was actually born in April.

    Back to the holiday at hand…Halloween is and always has been a pagan holiday. The religious holiday that the Church attached to it (once again, in order to add a religious meaning to it) is All Saints Day. This petition doesn’t mention moving All Saints Day. In fact, you might end up with more people in the pews on Nov. 1st if they haven’t been out trick or treating and then stuffing themselves full of candy all night the night before.

  • Martha,

    I wasn’t aware that the Hebrews were pagans. Wasn’t Dec. 25th the date the temple was re-dedicated? It seems like a religiously significant date for the temple in Jerusalem and since Jesus refers to Himself as the temple – it makes sense, don’t you think?

    As for Halloween – move it, don’t move it – it doesn’t matter – for most of us, including the secularists, it is just a fun night to dress up act silly, beg for candy and share some frivolous entertainment with each other. There is a danger that the occult becomes cool, but I think for most people this is innocent fun. As for all the drunks, rowdy morons, witches and satanists – they are going to do what they do, with or without secular Halloween and they’ll do it on Oct 31 and/or the last Sat in Oct – do they really care?

    People are not skipping Mass on All Saints because of Halloween – how else do you account for all the other days they skip Mass?

    Holidays have the significance we give them. Christmas can be just a day to drink egg nog and get gifts. Easter can just be about chocolate eggs. We are not forced to worship God; we are just as free to worship ourselves – at least for a little while – then Bam! Halloween won’t mean a thing although some of the imagery might be familiar in hell.

  • Thanks for sharing with information. now i know more about holloween..please keep posting. I will visit again.

Follow TAC by Clicking on the Buttons Below
Bookmark and Share
Subscribe by eMail

Enter your email:

Recent Comments
Archives
Our Visitors. . .
Our Subscribers. . .