Our family doesn't really 'do' Halloween. At least, not in the secular typical way that it is observed in our country. This has less to do with the idea that kids dressing up in costumes and getting free candy from the neighbors is evil and more to do with the place in our hearts that the Solemnity of All Saints holds. I love All Saints' Day and I've never been able to make a clear connection between the whole trick or treating thing and celebrating one of the most beautiful feasts in the liturgical year. I actually wish they could do a pseudo-Halloween on another day of the year, because I think it would be just plain fun...although my kids would still be put through the torture of having Mama pick through all that free candy and take away the ones I just won't let them put in their little bodies! I am so cruel! We are Catholic and when you have the amazing treasure of the Faith and the beautiful feast of All Saints' and so many ways to celebrate it with your family, the traditional Halloween just pales in comparison. I can't see how a child who is raised to place tremendous significance on trick or treating (it's FREE CANDY, people!) will be just as impressed, and hopefully moreso, by celebrating All Saints' UNLESS a significant amount of energy is put forth by parents to make the celebration of All Saints' bigger and better than the night of trick or treating before. (And how many of us have that kind of energy and time? There are some amazing blog moms out there who do it and do it well...I just don't happen to be among them ;) It's how children work. I remember All Saints' Day being the day after Halloween (rather than the reverse which is how it was originally intended). It was the day after the sugar-induced coma that you HAD to go to Mass and that was about it.
Since having children, we have put a good amount of energy into the observance of All Saints' Day. For a little while, we toyed with the idea of trying to do both and I think we took John Paul out in his little saint costume one year for trick or treating. But as we soon saw, there was so much emphasis in costume and home decoration on the dark side of Halloween that we were quickly uncomfortable with it. I know I have trouble getting some of those disturbing ugly images out of my head...did I really want my two year old seeing these same images that he couldn't understand just for the sake of a few bites of free candy and mom and dad reliving their childhood tradition? I wasn't cool with it. People seem to have gotten deeper and deeper into the grim decorations and death stuff, at least in my observance, and I just don't want those things exposed to my child's imagination. Call me overprotective or paranoid...I'm fine with it :)
For the past few years our family has organized an All Saints' party on Halloween night in order to really get the kids excited for this blessed day. We've always been joined by other families and it is a wonderful night and a great alternative to the trick or treating option. I actually think the children have way more fun at the party than if the evening involved trick or treating. There is food and candy and games and the children dress in saint (or saint-related) costumes. I've never had any of my children complain that they couldn't be something else...this is just what they know and they love dressing up. And since there are a good amount of saints who are able to carry a sword, we are all good. I love that they choose a saint that they admire and want to emulate. I am so grateful for the friendship and intercession of the saints and see the energy and time we put into honoring them is a token of gratitude from our family to our heavenly family that has done so much for us.
I'm not critical of people who decide to do the whole Halloween thing with their children and I hope that people who do things differently don't assume on the intentions of people who don't do the Halloween thing. I just think in Catholic households it is so important to make sure that the observance of All Saints' takes precedence. In our family that means Mass, saint costumes, the Litany of the Saints, great food, scavenger hunts and lots of fun games for the children. And in all of it we remember the stories of those who have gone before us and have entered into the heavenly joy which we long to share.
May all the saints, both known and unknown, pray for us!
|Because I can't resist posting a pic of my favorite All Saints' costume...John Paul at age 3 so excited to be Pope John Paul!|