I'm not sure when this trend started, I remember it beginning at least a decade ago, or perhaps a little before, this apparent aversion Catholics have to Halloween. I should say the aversion that seems to be present among some circles of Catholics, an almost fundamentalist approach to what is essentially a Catholic holiday. Instead of the traditional costumes and images of ghouls and goblins, we have to dress children up in saintly costumes, and call the day "All Saints' Eve". Even though the term "All Hallows' Eve" means precisely the same thing. I remember during my highschool years, the first "All Saints" party held in my home parish, where ghoulish costumes were verboten, and only saintly attire was permitted. I also remember one occasion during my university days when I was visiting one of my favourite Christian bookstores on October 31st, and a delivery man had just dropped off a shipment to the young woman working the checkout counter. As he was about to depart he wished her a "Happy Halloween", and in a very indignant fashion she responded, "I'm Catholic, I don't celebrate Halloween, I celebrate All Saints' Day." I'm sorry but, give me a break!
Halloween is as Catholic a day as they come. It originated in Irish popular piety as a day to recall the reality of Hell. Thus, Halloween is, say it with me now: SUPPOSED TO BE SCARY. It is a day to remember the sad fate of the souls of the damned, and that Hell is a real possibility for all of us, unless we strive to enter by the narrow door. The earliest celebrations of "All Hallows" began in the 300s, but was celebrated in May, on May 13th in fact, the day it is still observed in some Eastern Churches. It was transferred to November 1st in 844 when Pope Gregory
III consecrated a chapel in St. Peter's Basilica to All Saints. It has NOTHING TO DO with a druid harvest festival. There is no agreement among scholars that the pope consciously transferred the feast to "baptize" the pagan festival of Samhain, and the idea that the pope would transfer a feast of the Universal Church for the sake of a small group of pagans at the edge of the world seems to me to be rather far fetched. The appropriation of Halloween by pagans is a modern innovation, not extending any further back than the late 19th century.
It is quite true that the celebration of Halloween has become as much secularized as many other Christian feasts, Christmas being chief among them, and so dressing up children in secular costumes like Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga, frightening as that may be, is not the true intention of Halloween either. But to dress children up as saints for this day also misses the entire point of this particular observance. We honour the saints tomorrow on November 1st, we remember the souls in Purgatory the following day on November 2nd, but this day, October 31st is to remind us that there is a third possibility for us after we die, one we should avoid at all costs.
I'm going to step out on a limb here, I hope you'll join me, I'm going to suggest that ignoring the true heritage of Halloween plays right into the Modernist ideals that have infected the Church over the past decades. Today we only talk about heaven, a great many Catholics don't even have a concept of Purgatory or the need to pray for the dead any more. The generally accepted idea is that when we die, we all go up to heaven, no stops along the way, and you really don't even need to be that holy, as long as you're a good enough person, it's a free pass right upstairs. This is totally at odds with Sacred Tradition and the teaching of Our Lord in Sacred Scripture. Nonetheless, good Catholics seem to be playing right along, and ignoring the teachings of our Church on the Last Things. Halloween is not about the saints, that is for tomorrow, today is a day to remind ourselves, and catechize our children, that Hell is a reality, and it is something we need to strive to avoid by living lives that are truly Holy!