How to Celebrate Halloween, Catholic-Style
One of the best icebreaker questions that I’ve ever been asked was what my favorite childhood Halloween costume entailed. Not only did I enjoy reminiscing about my past dress up extravaganzas (there was the year of the witch, and that of the artist, and perhaps best of all: the year of the gum ball machine), I also loved watching others answer the question with a glimmer of nostalgia in their eyes. Halloween costumes are just FUN, aren’t they?!As a mom, I love to create magic for my kids on Halloween, from helping them pull together the costumes of their dreams, to taking time to carve pumpkins together, to walking them through the neighborhood for trick-or-treating after serving our annual dinner of butternut squash soup (we have to start the evening healthy, because we all know how it’s going to end). And as a Catholic mom, I love to tie our faith into our family’s Halloween celebrations. This is an easy and natural thing to do, largely because Halloween has direct ties to our Catholic tradition.
Halloween, after all, is another way of saying “All Hallow’s Eve,” which refers to the night before (that’s the “Eve” part, like Christmas Eve) All Hallows Day. And All Hallows Day is another way of saying All Saints Day, a solemnity within our Catholic tradition, the day on which we honor the Communion of Saints.
Here are some of the ways my family celebrates Halloween with a flair of faith:
We make some sort of explicit connection between Halloween costumes and saints
It goes without saying that dressing up for Halloween is one of my kids’ favorite aspects of the holiday. While I don’t like to set a lot of rules regarding their costume choices (they have to be appropriate, of course, and I’m not going to let them break the bank!) I do encourage them to find some sort of connection between their chosen outfit and the holiday’s origin of celebrating the saints. Believe it or not, this isn’t a particularly tough thing to do, especially if you are open to loose connections.
For instance, your son wants to be Luke Skywalker? The faith connection could be St. Luke (who shares a name, of course, but also shares the commitment to doing the right thing). Or your daughter wants to be a princess? Well, there’s a whole host of Catholic princesses, from Saint Elizabeth of Hungary to St. Margaret of Scotland. And I’ll let you in on a little secret: there is a patron saint for basically everything. From dogs (Saint Roch) to cars (St. Frances of Rome) to books (St. George… here’s your connection for all book related costumes, including Harry Potter characters, a common theme in our home), the saints will have you covered.
Once my kids have made their costume selection and found their faith connection (with more or less help from me and my husband, depending on the age of the child), we talk about the relevant saint as much as we can. In this way, discussion of the saints infuses our month alongside jack-o-lanterns and candy corn.
We make donations of our favorite fall foods to a local food pantry
Many of my family’s most beloved Halloween traditions have to do with food. There’s the trick-or-treat candy, of course, but there’s also the pumpkin muffins and the roasted butternut squash lasagna and the kettle corn and apple cider scattered throughout the month of October. These tastes of autumn warm all of our hearts as they fill our minds with memories and our stomachs with goodness, and we try to share the warmth by making a special “fall foods” grocery run and delivering the goods to our local food pantry. As we always do when engaging in acts of service as a family, we remind our daughters and son that we love others “because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19), and that Jesus called us to treat others (especially the hungry and vulnerable!) as if they were him (Matthew 25).
We pray before trick or treating
A few years ago, I stumbled across the sweetest prayer:. Let me give you a taste with the opening line: “God bless all the people we will meet. Let our visit with them be a pleasant treat.” The prayer goes on to ask that we be clothed in Christ’s light and protected from danger, and with all these important requests, it has become a staple in our family’s home. That first year when I discovered the prayer, I wrote it out on orange construction paper, added a few Halloween stickers, and hung it on the refrigerator. Once October 31 had come and gone, I almost threw out the paper… but instead I tucked it away with our Halloween decorations. And ever since then, I pull it out each year and we recite the prayer together as a family before heading out into the candy-filled night of trick-or-treating. Besides the overt benefits of prayer (we really do believe that God listens to our requests), praying together reminds our children that our faith is a part of every aspect of life…and especially this All Hallows Eve celebration.
And that, my friends, is how we celebrate Halloween, Catholic-Style. We partake in the secular fun while making connections to our faith and thus reminding our children of one of the truths I most want them to remember: that God is in all things. Halloween in our home is festive and faith-filled, and, well, I wouldn’t want it any other way!