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 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.
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 Culture.org 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 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.
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.
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 careful...watch out for the mischief of others, stay safe and have fun!