Monday, October 29, 2007

Halloween, All Saints, and All Souls day

I was on the radio this morning with Teresa Tomeo on our "Mom's Corner" segment and as usual we had a nice time chatting about our faith. We discussed Halloween, All Saints day and All Souls day coming up.

Halloween is such a controversial holiday especially for Catholics and Christians. Christian and Catholic parents may fear that they are supporting pagan rituals or superstitions if they allow their children to celebrate Halloween since Halloween stems from pagan practices way back when.

Others see no harm in Jack O'lanterns, innocent costumes, trick or treating and Halloween parties. As a matter of fact, my parish does an annual haunted house with the youth group and adult helpers. Two nights of fun are provided for the public for a small fee and the youth group usually raises a couple of thousand dollars for retreats and to give to charity!

My daughter, Mary-Catherine just recently volunteered to help run a safe Halloween party for kids in the community. She dressed up as a princess and wore a gown and tiara. The kids all had a lot of safe fun!

I have spoken with several Moms - some celebrate and some do not. Most see no harm in it when it is done in fun and safety. Some families focus on the Saints and Saint costumes and vow to not have anything scary or sexy worn by their children. One Mom said, "The reason we can enjoy Halloween is that the kids understand the difference between fairy stories and real life. and between good and evil." She also said she teaches them that through Jesus there is nothing to fear.

For Halloween safety - I feel that parties are a good idea, either private parties in your own home, or through your parish, homeschooling group, school or town. This way you know where your children are - off the streets - and what they are doing. Plus, you can help at the party as well.

One year my family participated in a progressive dinner party for Halloween in our neighborhood. The kids all dressed up and visited one house where appetizers were served, the next one where dinner was waiting, followed by another house for dessert. There were games and activities planned in advance at each home ending up with a safe movie at the last house. This was a lot of fun and you can get really creative with recipes or keep it very simple.

You can check out Catholic Culture at this link for ideas about Halloween.

I found a pattern by Simplicity for nativity costumes which you can use for Halloween or your Christmas pageant! There is an Angel. shepherds, Mary, Joseph, and the Kings. See all of the details here.

Check out the Catholic Mom.Com blog by Lisa Hendey who constantly brings great things to Catholic parents here and scroll down until you see the Simplicity pattern (picture that I have to the right) and read that post for more information.

Here is an article by Ann Ball about the Mexican celebration of Dia de Muertos (day of the Dead) which is very interesting.

Better Homes and Gardens has a very nice article about decorating pumpkins here.

The Food Network has some templates and pumpkin carving ideas here.

Also some tasty treat recipes and a family friendly Halloween party agenda here.

Costume ideas from Better Homes and Gardens are here.

Ultimately it is up to the parents to take control over their family's traditions and practices. Halloween can be celebrated with fun without paganism, but parents will guide their children in the way that best suits their conscience. Parents should naturally monitor their children and keep them safe at all times. If there is ever a question about safety - then use your best judgement and steer clear of things or parties that you are not sure of. And while enjoying your own good fun with your families, watch out for the mischief of others.

What are some of your ideas?

All Saints day

All Saints day is on Thursday, November 1st. It is a holy day of obligation so we must attend Mass. On All Saints day, the Church celebrates all Saints--canonized, beatified and also the multitude of those in heaven enjoying the Beatific vision (these Saints are only known to God).

During the early centuries the Saints venerated by the Church were all of the martyrs. The celebration was on May 13th. Later on the Popes set November 1st as the day of commemorating all of the Saints.

God our Father, source of all holiness, the work of your hands is manifest in your saints, the beauty of your truth is reflected in their faith. May we who aspire to have part in their joy be filled with the Spirit that blessed their lives, so that having shared their faith on earth we may also know their peace in your kingdom. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Some things to do:

1) Visit a cemetery and teach your children that this practice is not scary, gloomy, or morbid. It is a good thing. While there you may want to say some prayers, clean up a headstone of a relative and add flowers.

2) Pray for the deceased during the octave of All Saints - November 1st to November 8th. By doing this, you will receive a Plenary Indulgence to be used for the souls in purgatory (on other days this would gain a partial indulgence).

3) Pray the Litany of the Saints with your family (found in many prayer books and on Catholic websites, I will post it on All Saints day).

4) Participate with your parish Mass in which the children dress up as Saints.

5) Read some Saints stories to your children or have them read them to you!

Visit Catholic for a wealth of information on the Solemnity of All Saints.

Rev. George A. Kelly in his book, "Catholic Family Handbook" (Random House, Inc., New York, 1959) said, "On the feast of All Saints we commemorate the countless martyrs and others who cannot be honored individually because there are not enough days in the year to do so. It is an excellent occasion to discuss the possibility that all of us may achieve sainthood. Some children believe that saints lived only in ancient times; you might point out that many thousands of persons are leading lives of sanctity at this present day."


Make a fun craft with the kids. Alice Gunther has a nice reflection about the Saints and directions for a Saints craft at Catholic Mom.

Alice begins her reflection with, "As the vibrant greens of summer give way to glints of gold, the Church has blessed us with a bounty of saints' day celebrations, each one flickering like a candle in a long procession marching ever onward toward the great feast of All Hallows on November 1."

All Souls day

All Souls day is November 2nd. This day is the designated date to pray for the departed souls in purgatory so they may soon join the other souls in Heaven. It's great that these two special days - All Saints and All Souls - are back to back. The reason for this is to express the Christian belief of the Communion of Saints or union of all of the faithful on earth - The Church Militant, the Saints in Heaven - The Church Triumphant, and the poor souls in purgatory - The Church Suffering with Christ as the Head. We are bound together by a supernatural bond and can and should help each other. We are called to pray for the poor souls on All Souls Day and EVERY day. We can ask the Saints to intercede for us on All Saints day.

On All Souls day, every priest is permitted to say three Masses on this day. The faithful are encouraged to attend three Masses if possible, offering all of the graces for the poor souls in purgatory.

Things to do:

1) Attend at least one Mass if possible (not obligatory) and three if you are able to without neglecting your family or responsibilities.

2)Remember family and friends who have died and especially for all of the souls in purgatory.

3) Visit the cemetery with parish or your family and pray for the faithfully departed.

4) Pray the Lord's Prayer and the Creed at the cemetery and you may gain a plenary indulgance (under the usual conditions--Sacramental Confession eight days prior or after plus Eucharistic Communion on that day - AND pray for the Holy Father's intentions by offering an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be.

Again - November 1st through November 8th is the special octave of prayer- pray for the poor souls, make sacrifices, teach our children that the souls in purgatory will also pray for us when they get to Heaven.

Check out Catholic Culture for tips and information on All Souls day.

Summing Up

Teach your children why you visit the cemetery on this day.

Teach then why we pray for the souls (they NEED our prayers).

Teach them about the Communion of Saints (I mentioned the three branches above) - we are all in this together!

When our kids understand these things they will be able to carry them on throughout their lives and pass them down to their own children.

Keep those precious children safe on Halloween! Make sure you know what they will be doing and where they will be. It's so important to be sure that if your children are not with you, that they are with trustworthy individuals. You can never be too out for the mischief of others, stay safe and have fun!


Anonymous said...

Great Post, Donna. Very Helpful. We have small ones and I am still struggling with how to integrate the "secular" holidays in a Christian spirit.

Tracy said...

Great post, us Catholic mom's must all be thinking about this, I just posted two links on Halloween at my blog, it is hard to know how much of this to allow our kids to do and not to do, etc. Very nice to know that I am not alone in trying to decide what we should do with this secular Holiday.

Anonymous said...

Learn the real truth about Halloween and its history
By Father Augustine Thompson 9/1/2000

We've all heard the allegations. Halloween is a pagan rite dating back to some pre-Christian festival among the Celtic Druids that escaped Church suppression. Even today modern pagans and witches continue to celebrate this ancient festival. If you let your kids go trick-or-treating, they will be worshiping the devil and pagan gods. Nothing could be further from the truth. The origins of Halloween are, in fact, very Christian and rather American.
Halloween falls on Oct. 31 because of a pope, and its observances are the result of medieval Catholic piety. [Remember, this is prior to the prostestant rebellion and all Christians were catholic] It's true that the ancient Celts of Ireland and Britain celebrated a minor festival on Oct. 31 — as they did on the last day of most other months of the year. However, Halloween falls on the last day of October because the Feast of All Saints or "All Hallows" falls on Nov. 1. The feast in honor of all the saints in heaven used to be celebrated on May 13, but Pope Gregory III (d. 741) moved it to Nov. 1, the dedication day of All Saints Chapel in St. Peter's at Rome. Later, in the 840s, Pope Gregory IV commanded that All Saints be observed everywhere.
And so the holy day spread to Ireland. The day before was the feast's evening vigil, "All Hallows Even" or "Hallowe'en." In those days, Halloween didn't have any special significance for Christians or for long-dead Celtic pagans. In 998, St. Odilo, the abbot of the powerful monastery of Cluny in Southern France, added a celebration on Nov. 2. This was a day of prayer for the souls of all the faithful departed. This feast, called All Souls Day, spread from France to the rest of Europe.
So now the Church had feasts for all those in heaven and all those in purgatory? What about those in the other place? It seems Irish Catholic peasants wondered about the unfortunate souls in hell. After all, if the souls in hell are left out when we celebrate those in heaven and purgatory, they might be unhappy enough to cause trouble. So it became customary to bang pots and pans on All Hallows Even to let the damned know they were not forgotten. Thus, in Ireland, at least, all the dead came to be remembered — even if the clergy were not terribly sympathetic to Halloween.
But that still isn't our celebration of Halloween. Our traditions, on this holiday, center around dressing up in fanciful costumes, which isn't Irish at all. Rather, this custom arose in France during the 14th and 15th centuries. Late medieval Europe was hit by repeated outbreaks of the bubonic plague — the Black Death — and she lost about half her population. It is not surprising that Catholics became more concerned about the afterlife. More Masses were said on All Souls' Day, and artistic representations were devised to remind everyone of their own mortality. We know these representations as the "Dance Macabre" or "Dance of Death," which was commonly painted on the walls of cemeteries and shows the devil leading a daisy chain of people — popes, kings, ladies, knights, monks, peasants, lepers, etc. — into the tomb. Sometimes the dance was presented on All Souls' Day itself as a living tableau with people dressed up in the garb of various states of life. But the French dressed up on All Souls day, not Halloween; and the Irish, who had Halloween, did not dress up.
How the two became mingled probably happened first in the British colonies of North America during the 1700s when Irish and French Catholics began to intermarry. The Irish focus on hell gave the French masquerades an even more macabre twist. But, as every young ghoul knows, dressing up isn't the point; the point is getting as many goodies as possible. Where on earth did "trick or treat" come in? "Treat or treat" is perhaps the oddest and most American addition to Halloween, and is the unwilling contribution of English Catholics. During the penal period of the 1500s to the 1700s in England, Catholics had no legal rights. They could not hold office and were subject to fines, jail and heavy taxes. It was a capital offense to say Mass, and hundreds of priests were martyred.
Occasionally, English Catholics resisted, sometimes foolishly. One of the most foolish acts of resistance was a plot to blow up the Protestant King James I and his Parliament with gunpowder. This was supposed to trigger a Catholic uprising against their oppressors. The ill-conceived Gunpowder Plot was foiled on Nov. 5, 1605, when the man guarding the gunpowder, a reckless convert named Guy Fawkes, was captured and arrested. He was hanged; the plot fizzled. Nov. 5, Guy Fawkes' Day, became a great celebration in England, and so it remains. During the penal periods, bands of revelers would put on masks and visit local Catholics in the dead of night, demanding beer and cakes for their celebration: trick or treat!
Guy Fawkes' Day arrived in the American colonies with the first English settlers. But, buy the time of the American Revolution, old King James and Guy Fawkes had pretty much been forgotten. Trick or treat, though, was too much fun to give up, so eventually it moved to Oct. 31, the day of the Irish-French masquerade. And in America, trick or treat wasn't limited to Catholics. The mixture of various immigrant traditions we know as Halloween had become a fixture in the Unites States by the early 1800s.
To this day, it remains unknown in Europe, even in the countries from which some of the customs originated. But what about witches? Well, they are one of the last additions. The greeting card industry added them in the late 1800s. Halloween was already "ghoulish," so why not give witches a place on greeting cards? The Halloween card failed (although it has seen a recent resurgence in popularity), but the witches stayed. So, too, in the late 1800s, ill-informed folklorists introduced the jack-o'-lantern. They thought that Halloween was druidic and pagan in origin. Lamps made from turnips (not pumpkins) had been part of ancient Celtic harvest festivals, so they were translated to the American Halloween celebration. The next time someone claims that Halloween is a cruel trick to lure your children into devil worship, I suggest you tell them the real origin of All Hallows Even and invite them to discover its Christian significance, along with the two greater and more important Catholic festivals that follow it.
--Father Augustine Thompson, O.P., is an associate professor in the Religious Studies Department at the University of Virginia.

Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle said...

Thank you, Kelly, Tracy and "Anonymous!"

God bless,