I’m not a fan of substituting All Saints Day for Halloween. I don’t like the practice of having kids wear a Saint’s costume instead of a Halloween costume… I think doing so actually takes something special away from both celebrations. By skipping over the spooky part, we’re not getting the full understanding of the next day’s liturgical feast. This coming Tuesday (Oct 31), I’ll be posting a piece about embracing Halloween as a Catholic. I’ll go into much more detail then (come back and see!), but the jist of it irons out the fact that though evil exists, it has no longer has any power over us. That is why Halloween and All Saints Day are celebrated back to back, and why I think kids should dress in Halloween costumes on Halloween, and Saints costumes on All Saints Day.
I actually think that Halloween has so many cool ways to teach kids certain truths about our Catholic faith. The best part is that you don’t have to use them all every year… you can switch things up and teach them new things with each trip around the sun! Here are the 5 activities I plan to use with my own kids someday.
- When you think of symbols for the Trinity, a shamrock is probably the first thing that pops to the forefront of your mind. However, Halloween actually has a pretty iconic symbol that can also be used to help explain the mystery of the Trinity. In one kernel of Candy Corn, there are 3 distinct colors. For young children, this is a great way to explain the Trinity: 3 distinct Persons make up our 1 God, just as 3 distinct colors make up one kernel. For older kids, this activity can be taken a step further. Corn is not the most popular grain out of which to make bread, but it can be done. It would be cool to tie God/candy corn kernel to the Bread of Life (Jesus)/ cornbread. It’d be easy enough to watch a YouTube video of how corn is ground into flour, and then just bake a box of store bought corn bread. Tie the “grinding process” into the Crucifixion and cornbread into receiving the Eucharist… easy-peasy!
- Learn the story of the day the angels were created, and how many of them rebelled against God. Though they were defeated and thrown out of heaven, they still desire to mess up God’s plan for all those he loves. Talk (or learn) about spiritual warfare, and how Satan and his demons try to do whatever they can to make us dislike God. Pray the St. Michael the Archangel prayer together– or learn it if you don’t already know it. You can even make it a yearly tradition to pray it together before you go out trick or treating.
- While carving a pumpkin, compare the icky stuff to sin. The pumpkin flesh is messy… and it can be hard to get all of it out! Just like our vices! Illustrate how when we clean those things out of our souls, we have room for “the Light” (Jesus). Then, just as the jack-o-lanterns serve as a light for trick-or-treaters, we serve as little lights to the world around us.
- If you like to bake or cook, take the time to teach your kids about the transforming power of grace. Save the pumpkin filling from your carving session and bake muffins (or bread) to eat for breakfast on All Saints Day, or take the seeds and roast them to eat for snacks. Compare this change in the “icky parts” of the pumpkin to how God can transform the sinful parts of us into something wonderful.
- Put a medal of St. Benedict in the bottom of the bag or bucket the kids will use to carry their candy. Earlier this week I wrote about the cool symbolism of this medal. Etched in the backside are some really bold prayers such as, “May the holy cross be my light! May the dragon never be my guide!” To take this prayer a step further, you could also take two, thick glow sticks, and fasten them together in the shape of a cross. Your child can carry it while trick-or-treating as a type of flashlight. Some places (mostly online) actually sell glow stick crosses!
I think that sometimes we take the Scripture’s command to be “in the world, but not of it” to mean something that it doesn’t. It doesn’t mean rejecting every single secular practice; it means looking through it with the lens of faith, and letting it into your life in that manner. Don’t be afraid to let your children celebrate Halloween– and come back on Tuesday to read more about why.