How to Celebrate Halloween as a Catholic
Fall is one of our family’s favorite times of the year. In addition to cooling weather, it is football season! Of course, our children also look forward to Halloween for many months. There’s much discussion on what kind of candy they will receive and what they will dress up as for Halloween. However, we also use it as an opportunity to teach the children about God.
While Halloween is not on the official liturgical calendar of the Church, the holiday has its roots in remembering the dead and confronting the reality of death and evil in the world. It is named All Hallowed Eve or Halloween because on this night we prepare for the great feast of All Saints Day. In fact, it is only when we look at it in reference to the Feast of All Saints the next day that we see the full meaning. It shows us that God’s people triumphs over evil and light is victorious over darkness.
Here are 7 ways to celebrate Catholicism on Halloween:
1. Dressing up
First, we encourage our children (currently ages 6, 3, and 15 months) to dress up as someone or something they can be proud of. Whether it’s a superhero (who fights against evil), a princess who fights for justice for her people, or a priest, we use the day as an opportunity for our children to have positive role models to whom they can look up. One could choose to dress up as saints as well. This also works well if you are attending an All Saints Day party later in the week. There’s also the option of having a “two-for-one” costume if you are attending an All Saints Day party. That’s where one dresses up as something that can also be doubled into a saint costume. For instance, one could go as a soldier for Halloween and go as St. George for All Saints Day.
Additionally, we use this opportunity of Halloween to explain that evil and the devil are real. There are scary things in this world. What should we be afraid of and what should we not be afraid of? What should we do if we are scared? Why are things so scary? What happens when we put more light on scary things?
We explain how skeletons (which can be very scary to a three-year-old) remind us of our brief time on earth and of the upcoming judgment. We also discuss how skeletons can be relics – or part of a body of a saint. Relics remind us of the holiness of the person and their closeness to God. The altar in your parish typically contains a relic of a saint.
Additionally, zombies are not real, but they can help us remember we believe in the resurrection of the dead.
We use the opportunity of Halloween to guide our kids to think about their ultimate identity – they are children of God. As they tell us what they want to “be” we can ask what someone like that can do for God. A firefighter can help people. A clown can make others laugh. A priest visits the sick. And a princess can generously bless others.
2. Trick or Treating
When our oldest son was two, he decided he wanted to be our parish priest for Halloween. After I made sure that’s what he REALLY wanted, I ended up making him vestments that “matched” Father’s. As we went around the neighborhood and to other parties, it was amazing to see the reactions of the neighbors. In some places, it was awkward, in other places we met parishioners from our parish we had not previously met. In a day and age where we no longer know our neighbors’ last names, it’s a great opportunity to get to know your neighbors and begin a conversation, which could be an opportunity for evangelization later. One person even mentioned to our parish priest they had met a young boy that had dressed up as him for Halloween!
Trick or Treating originally started as beggars would go door to door and promise to pray for the dead in exchange for either food or a treat. Today, children simply go door to door. Perhaps your family could pray for all they will meet that night before leaving the house.
3. Bless the Candy
As you dump out the candy at home, don’t just check the candy – bless or pray over it as well as well as pray for those you have encountered throughout the evening! One option is to pray the St. Michael the Archangel prayer and sprinkle the candy with holy water:
St. Michael the Archangel,
Defend us in battle;
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray:
And do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
By the power of God,
Cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits
Who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.
This once again serves to remind us that evil is real, but God ultimately triumphs over death!
4. Carve Jack O’Lanterns
Jack O’Lanterns bring light into darkness. They are a visible sign. Instead of a traditional pumpkin, you can also choose to carve a Christian or pro-life message image in your pumpkin for those who pass by your home to see.
When you carve pumpkins, explain to your children that we take out all of the yuck and guts of the pumpkin to make something new, just as God takes out all of our “yuck” (such as our mistakes, sin and failure). Just as we put a candle in the jack-o-lantern to shine for all to see, God can put the light of Christ inside of us to shine for all to see if we let him. Each day, we pray the morning offering to begin again.
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day
for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart,
in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world,
for the salvation of souls, the reparation of sins, the reunion of all Christians,
and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father this month.
If you prefer to skip the knives and fire, you can also choose to make “saint-o-lanterns” as well. You can find the directions here.
5. Pray for the dead
It’s tradition to pray for the dead and the souls in purgatory around this time of year. Visit your local Catholic cemetery to pray for all buried there and all the dead (especially your deceased relatives who may or may not be buried there).
Most parishes also display a “book of the dead” in which you can write the names of your deceased loved ones and the parish community will then pray for the souls of those listed in the book. Take a minute during the week to stop by your parish church to write the names of your deceased loved ones in the book. Once that is done, take a few minutes to pray for them then and there. This will add a moment of prayer to your week and praying for the dead is a great spiritual work of mercy.
6. Talk about the Martyrs
There are many, many heroic people in our Catholic faith tradition. We call them saints. Especially exciting are the martyrs (a Greek word meaning witness) who gave up everything – including facing death – in order to glorify God. These are some of the most thrilling stories. If you don’t know where to begin, here are some martyrs we look up to. You can tell these stories in an age-appropriate way for your children.
Use skulls and other symbols of death in your decorations to remind your household that we must remember that we will die and can only rely on God for our salvation.
Hopefully, these have given you and your family a few ideas on how to incorporate your Catholic faith into Halloween. Happy Halloween!