Guess what, Chicago Catholics? It’s that time of year again… Halloween. Oh boy, this is a tough one for Catholic families, right? Surely Halloween deals with the occult and pagan activities that make it a direct slap in the face to Catholic values, right? Wrong. Like many modern American holidays (St. Patrick’s Day, St. Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras, etc.) Halloween had its origins directly tied to Catholic feast days, but those holy traditions have since been lost and corrupted by secular culture. This just means that modern Catholic families need to work extra hard to restore the true meaning of the holiday.
Increasingly, Catholic parishes around the Chicago area are doing exactly that. For example, Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Church in Homer Glen, Illinois, is hosting a Young Adult Halloween Event this year. On their website, they note: “Vespers at Annunciation then food at a bonfire and discussion on Spiritual Warfare. Come and partake in this original meaning of Halloween!” The event is scheduled to take place Oct. 31, 2015, at 5 p.m.
If your parish has no such activities planned, and you’re wondering how the heck you could celebrate Halloween with a faithful Catholic intent, today’s column can be of service. Here is an original Top 10 list of Catholic activities for Halloween:
- Dress your kids in appropriate costumes: as biblical figures, or saints. As a prelude to All Saints Day, the focus should be on teaching your children Catholic values. Learning about the saints by dressing as famous Catholic saints is an ideal and fun method to do this. When the neighbors kids or other school children ask them what they’re dressed as, they can provide an interesting story about the context.
- Wish people a Happy “All Hallows Eve”. This is the correct name for the holiday. Do NOT ever call it “Satan’s Holiday” or “Devil’s Night”. Halloween is the evening before All Saints Day (November 1st ) and All Souls Day (November 2nd) and should always be acknowledged as such. Saying “All Hallows Eve” reminds people that it is the vigil of a Christian holy day. If you come from a Hispanic background, you can also wish people a happy “Dia del los muertos”, as long you tie it into the fact that the Day of the Dead is the Latin American way of celebrating All Souls Day.
- Avoid protestant or secular invented Halloween “alternatives”. This includes many “Fall Festivals”, or even “Reformation Day” events hosted by non-Catholic churches. Such events are similar to Kwanza – their purpose was originally to divorce people from the true Catholic holidays that occurred during the time of year, and to create new “traditions” out of thin air. Instead, we should be reclaiming Halloween as our own, and restoring the old traditions of All Souls Day and All Saints Day that have been lost over the centuries.
- Host a hospitable neighborhood gathering – this includes the Catholic tradition of a bonfire night, complete with s’mores, hot chocolate, coffee , apple cider, lively religious discussion, and Catholic themed games and activities. This has become increasingly important as our society has moved further and further into an impersonal world where we communicate by texting and email.
- Tie the “macabre” elements of Halloween into stories about Christian martyrs. There is nothing wrong with the traditional creepy, scary element of Halloween, as long as it ties into the original purpose to have a holy, God-fearing household. Children need to be reminded that Christ conquered death and the devil, and they need to understand that murder, souls, and demons are very real things. Choose a real life “scary story” to tell children that took place during the three hundred years of Roman persecution before Christianity was accepted. Examples can be found in books like “Heroic Faith and Extreme Devotion” by The Voice of the Martyrs (W Publishing Group, 2002)
- Teach Catholic history with games like Romans-versus-Christian Flashlight Tag. This is a traditional Christian game that can be played outdoors. An adult with a light hides outside. The campers tried to find the adult with the light and to join them in their hiding place as they “found the light.” If the students are caught by the guards, they go to “jail” for being Christians. The only way to get out of the jail was is to quote Scripture and singing worship songs. This will “convert” a guard to Christianity. The other guards remained at the jail to take care of newly-arriving prisoners.
- Play other Catholic themed games that tie into All Saints Day, like All Saints Scavenger Hunt, All Saints Bingo, and the All Saints Puzzle. For example, a Catholic themed saints game with 12 cards, each showing a different symbol for a saint, can be a great teaching method for teaching children about different saints.
- Participate in a Candle Blessing. Instead of just the now secular activity of lighting Jack-o-lanterns, remind people of the religious origins of the holiday by having a candle lighting and blessing at church. This reminds children of the sacredness of candle lighting at church, and that the light of Christ does indeed outshine the darkness.
- Visit the graves of your loved ones. This is especially important for All Souls Day (November 2nd) as the most important point of the feast day is to remember remember our loved ones and to pray for those who have died marked with the sign of faith. Celebrating the souls of our deceased relatives reminds us that death is not the last word – we can experience life everlasting.
- Go to a special mass, prayer group, or evening vespers for All Souls Day or All Saints Day. This is the most important activity of all, since it reminds us that the Halloween season is actually supposed to be a holy, sacred time. This can also be especially useful for learning about the real traditions associated with the feast days of All Souls Day and All Saints Day.
In any case, there you have it – a way to celebrate Halloween AND be faithful to traditional Catholic values. Give it a shot this year, it might paint your Halloween experience in a whole new light.
Dress your kids in appropriate costumes: as biblical figures, or saints. As a prelude to All Saints Day, the focus should be on teaching your children Catholic values. Learning about the saints by dressing as famous Catholic saints is an ideal and fun method to do this. When the neighbors kids or other school children ask them what they’re dressed as, they can provide an interesting story about the context.
The Catholic Truth About Halloween
A brief overview about the Christian and secular roots of Halloween in America, and contemporary culture’s distortion of the popular holiday’s history. Although Halloween is not a Church observance and has many aspects today that have little to do with Christianity (even some abuses), misconceptions about both its modern, innocuous establishment and older Christian origins and meaning are partly rooted in anti-Catholic urban legends and biases aimed at the liturgical feasts of All Saints and All Souls.
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- Halloween…Ghosts, Goblins, and God
- All Saints’ or Saint’s Day is celebrated every November 1st
- All Souls Day – Remembering departed loved ones
- Dia de muertos in detroit!