Getting All Hallows Eve right!

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  1. meippoliti says:

    The photo you posted is from the inspiring, awesome, Catholic blog Shower of Roses ( This blog is great, especially in creative ways to celebrate our faith. May it be carving “Saint O Lanterns” to simply sitting and reading about a Saint on his or her feast day, this blog inspired me when I was a new convert and had my first child.
    The blogger Jessica also created Catholic Cuisine (!

  2. BillyHW says:

    May I never turn into this sort of Catholic. Not absolutely everything has to be about church. This puritanical prudishness is purely an American phenomenon, with roots in Protestantism, btw.

    Fr. Z's Bitter Fruit Award

  3. Ichabod says:

    Today, our parish priest had a distinctly Catholic take on Jack O’ Lanterns. [I think it may be a story told elsewhere but forgive me since it was the first time I had heard it.]

    He told a story of going to the supermarket and pushing his shopping cart past the big crate of pumpkins. As he passed, he heard a faint voice cry out, “Help me.” He couldn’t believe the voice came from the crate, so peered inside when he heard the voice again. Digging through the crate, he came upon the ugliest pumpkin at the bottom of the bin. One side was flattened, scars were all over it as well as blotches and funky-looking, discolored growths. But, make no mistake, this little pumpkin was talking to him asking for help. So, he put the pumpkin in his cart in exchange for the pumpkin promising not to talk until they were out of the store (for fear the cashier would freak out!).

    At this point, he reached from under the ambo and revealed the ugly pumpkin.

    The pumpkin told him how horrible he felt at being so ugly at the bottom of the crate. He feared no one would want him for Halloween and he would be thrown in the trash. He wanted to be a real Jack O’ Lantern. The priest asked if he knew what that meant; the cutting, the pain, the sacrifice. The pumpkin didn’t really know, but had faith that it would be worth it.

    So, the priest on the ambo pretended to carve the pumpkin and then turned it around for all to see — the pumpkin had a big gaping smile and 2 eyes. The pumpkin was happy. But the priest said to the pumpkin that was not enough– you need to show your Maker your gratitude and joy, whereupon the priest reached into the pumpkin and lit the candle so the glow of the pumpkin shone through the church.

    The priest finished by giving glory to God, our Maker, and reminding us that the fire within is what makes us glow with love that all can see. Our exterior countenance is full of imperfections and distortions. We can’t change the exterior but if we answer God’s invitation to change the interior, then the glow comes shining through and the exterior is transformed.

  4. Liz says:

    They are so darling!

  5. mamajen says:

    My boys are Robin Hood and Friar Tuck this year. The Friar Tuck costume I made looks remarkably similar to the Saint Francis costume in this picture. I wish I had time to put together a saint costume so my oldest can go to the church party. I have a lot of fun making costumes each year. The costumes in this photo are very well done!

  6. The Masked Chicken says:

    ” I wish I had time to put together a saint costume so my oldest can go to the church party. ”

    Just have them wear a suit and tie or dress (depending on their sex) and they can go as the, as yet unknown, first lay saint of the twenty-first century :)

    The Chicken

  7. OrthodoxChick says:

    When I was a middle school catechist, I dreaded Halloween because most of the religious ed programs in the neighboring parishes would have Halloween parties during their classes. In our class, we had an All Saints Day party. Students had the choice of either dressing up as their favorite saint, or (since we’re talking middle schoolers and some felt they were too old/too cool to play dress-up), if they did not want to dress up, they needed to research a saint of their choosing and be ready to tell the class about their saint during the party. We had trendy Christian music (like rap) playing in the background and adults approaching the kids during the party. If the kids could explain a little bit about their saint and/or were dressed as their saint, they were given a candy treat. They were approached multiple times during the party. The more they knew, the more candy treats they received. The music was to make it a party and to attempt to demonstrate that sacred music should be used for Mass, but that there is a proper time and place to enjoy other genres of Christian music outside of Mass.

    The kids in the above picture are absolutely adorable! I wish I had a family like this in one of my local parishes. Imagine the changes we might see in the average N.O. parish if each parish had one or two families like this!

  8. benedetta says:

    Homeschooled middle schooler chose to go as Bl. Piergiorgio Frassati…a 20th century blessed.

    And, lol as to the “prudishness” and the “Protestantism” from the commenter above…Funny I was just reading the historical Catholic traditions during Halloween in a “Catholic Update” distributed by my parish. “From its earliest beginnings, this holiday was linked to the feast of All Saints.” And reading further on, “In fact, the connection between Halloween, the saints, and medieval Catholic customs may have been the reason the holiday has been criticized since the time of the Reformation.”

  9. mamajen says:


    You shouldn’t jump to conclusions. I know people who do both non-religious costumes for trick or treating and saint costumes for church parties. While there are lots of innocent, non-offensive costume possibilities, it’s easy to understand why churches or Catholic schools would go with a saint theme instead of relying on people to come up with acceptable secular costumes.

    I have known people who get carried away with “all Church, all the time” (at least when people are watching), so I understand where you’re coming from, but we have no idea about this family, and besides, they all look really happy. Good for them.

  10. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Sorry to see BillyHW blow a gasket. Our kids dressed up like this lots, and had a grand time doing it.

  11. robtbrown says:

    BillyHW says:

    May I never turn into this sort of Catholic. Not absolutely everything has to be about church. This puritanical prudishness is purely an American phenomenon, with roots in Protestantism, btw.

    What’s puritanical or Protestant about dressing up as The Little Flower or member of Mother Teresa’s order?

  12. Salvelinus says:

    Anyone dressing up as some of the more “progressive” sisters of LCWR?
    I’m not sure if a pant suit, and angry scowl, and a copy of the National catholic Reporter will be a big one this year….

    [If you dress as Sr. Donna Quinn, be sure to include the Pro-Choice sweatshirt.]

  13. Elizabeth D says:

    I told my Catechism kids that it is really just the day before All Saints Day and you shouldn’t get into the evil and unsavory aspects of Halloween, but it is okay to dress up as a puppy and go around saying “trick or treat”. You should be more focused on the Saints, and pray for the dead the next day on All Souls Day. One kid told me last year their catechist said you shouldn’t do Halloween, it is wrong. I said that is fine too, all the better, just ignore it and think about the Saints!

    These kids do not seem to know any Saints.

  14. sejoga says:

    My general sentiment is something similar to BillyHW’s honestly. I might have worded it less harshly, but… something strikes me as pharisaical about this.

    It’s especially annoying when the families in question who do this kind of thing are often pretty wishy-washy in terms of things that are actually important to the faith. I’m not suggesting that every family whose children dress up as saints for Halloween are like this, but, in my personal experience, families who do this sort of thing are also the ones who are most invested in things like LifeTeen, or Praise & Worship masses, or holding hands at the Our Father, etc.

    Maybe it just shows the spiritual poverty of some of the parishes I’ve been subjected to, but parents I know who will make *you* feel like a sinner because your children dress up in witch costumes on October 31st are the same ones who will turn around and leave the Church if their pastor says their daughter can no longer serve at the altar because he’s restricting it to altar boys. I’ve known too many Catholics whose faith is almost entirely “showy” with very real depth, which is what these types of costumes always make me think of.

    That doesn’t mean I’m *right*, mind you, but I’ve had enough experience with Catholics of that nature to be reactively distrustful of these things.

  15. benedetta says:

    Wow, that’s harsh. I know tons of families who do this and none of them are “showy” or judge others for dressing up in other ways, threaten to leave the church over altar girls etc etc etc. Pretty much, they are just doing it for the kids who really love it. You’d be surprised how much fun it is. I know one little one who prefers dressing as a queen so she goes for a saint who was a queen. And there are tough guy saints on par with any superhero that little boys often go for. It’s just for fun. And, I would note here that pretty much all public elementary schools and the vast majority of Catholic elementary schools have sadly had to institute restrictions on certain types of costumes in recent decades, because the commercial gore and prostitute costumes are being marketed aggressively to upper elementary ages, and parents and teachers alike complain that the little ones are frightened or confused by them. They don’t use the word “scandalized” but I would. It’s not just the “showy” and all Catholic all the time families that are going for this increasingly. I know a lot of creative and imaginative kids are tired of the same old costumes in the commercial catalogs or stores, and love creating their own. Why not offer some cool saint selections to go with the Captain America? Nothing wrong with giving your child even more heroes to look up to and let them decide. The only thing that sounds Protestant to me is to call the saints “prudes” and imply that their lives were somehow boring or perfect. I mean wow, you can’t get more stereotypical can you.

  16. The Masked Chicken says:

    Oh, tish-tosh. Let’s make everyone happy. Go dressed as the number 7. Then, you can be either the seven virtues or the seven deadly sins :)

    Me, I’m going as a human. Would be nice to see a few parents do, likewise.

    The Chicken

  17. Angie Mcs says:

    When was the last time a child came to your door trick or treating and left you thinking of how to try to improve your inner life?

  18. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    For crying out loud. If you can’t dress up as a saint on ALL HALLOWS’ EVE, when on earth CAN you dress up as as saint?

  19. Pingback: All Hallows Eve & All Saints Day Preview -

  20. Angie Mcs says:

    Dr. Peters, it seems to be threatening to some people. Why, I don’t know. Instead of just leaving it for what it is, they have to bring up hypocrites and religious extremists.

  21. The Masked Chicken says:

    “This puritanical prudishness is purely an American phenomenon, with roots in Protestantism, btw.”

    I do not understand this sentence. In fact, Halloween is not an American phenomenon. The word is Scottish. Its origin seems to be either Celtic or Germanic. In fact, the Puritans forbid the celebration of Halloween. It was spread to the U. S. during the Irish/German immigration boon of the late 19th-century. In fact, it is not prudish at all, but a time of celebration and prayer, forming part of the triduum known as Hallowmas (Oct. 31, Nov. 1., and Nov. 2, when Masses are said for the dead. The idea of candies seems to come from the 12th-century when kids would collect Soul Cakes, which were shared among the poor. The custom of dressing up was, originally, as a means to HIDE one’s identity from souls whom it were though were free to roam the earth until All Souls Day. Oct. 31 was their last chance to harass people, so people donned disguises so the ghosts could not recognize them.

    It does not have roots in Protestantism, as the feast was celebrated as early as the 7th-century, when no Protestants existed.

    The Chicken

    P. S. That being said, in recent years Halloween has become out of hand among the adult population.

  22. In an age when kids are dressing up as Miley Cyrus for Halloween, we could use more saint costumes.

  23. Ben Yanke says:

    Wow, billy…of course, your catholic faith doesn’t have to be the only thing you do in your life. But since soany deeply love their faith, what’s wrong with it? More power to them.

  24. everett says:

    If people want to dress up as saints for halloween, more power to them. I think these saint costumes are fantastic. If they’d rather be superheroes or princesses or cartoon characters, that’s fine too. Just keep it clean. This year I’ve got a Captain America and a Buzz Lightyear. Last year I had a thing 1 and a thing 2 with my wife and myself being the Cat in the Hat and Fish.

  25. All the demons, and things of the dark are a reminder that hell exists and one can go there. Gotta start where they’re at so we’re told. The kids are adorable.

  26. Charlotte Allen says:

    The kids look darling, but they are really dressed up for All Saints Day, not Halloween.

    I can’t see anything wrong with Halloween’s fanciful and even ghoulish aspects–for if there is Hell, there is surely a Heaven, which is what All Saints Day is all about. The way, the All Saints “triduum” of Halloween, All Hallows, and All Souls pays tribute to the reality of the three destinations of the soul after death. Frequent Fr. Z commenter Fr. Augustine Thompson, O.P., wrote this essay for Beliefnet on the Christian underpinnings of Halloween customs:

    But like Mardi Gras, Halloween has devolved from innocent pageantry and fun into an orgiastic annual ritual for adults, with young ladies costumed as “sexy” this and that and far too much to drink. Still, there’s no harm done if kids dress up as devils and ghosts, reminding us of the palpableness of evil and death. Then they can switch into their saints’ costumes for All Saints Day when the sun rises the next morning.

  27. sejoga says:

    Wow, only two people wrote anything critical of this, and I tried very hard to phrase my criticisms not as a dismissal of the whole practice, but of what seems (to me) to be misguided fervor on the part of the families I have known who do this. But even a minor criticism of this practice has brought out the knives.

    This is not an example of some ancient, deeply spiritual tradition that was then commercialized. The “dressing up and asking for candy” aspects of Halloween have always been rooted more in pre-Christian Celtic traditions than in Catholic religious piety. BillyHW was pointing out not that the tradition itself was Protestant, but that the need to “sacralize” things that are just supposed to be plain fun is a very American-style Puritan Protestant tradition.

    For what it’s worth, I don’t have children yet, and I don’t really have strong feelings about my future children dressing as saints. But I can say from experience that I’ve known many devout Catholics who don’t do this, and several Catholics who *do* do this who are not very devout.

    Frankly, I wish Catholics would put more effort into reviving genuine sacred traditions instead of trying to religify something that wasn’t particularly pious to begin with. I’m more into Day of the Dead traditions than Halloween anyway, and don’t even get me started on Christmas!

  28. benedetta says:

    sejoga, Yeah, it’s not like that, “sacralized”. It’s just a lot of fun. Kids love it, otherwise it probably wouldn’t be happening. As most kids even ones who don’t frequently go to Mass seem to really enjoy picking out a confirmation saint/name. It’s sort of like that, but even more fun and particularly for little kids. I’m not sure about the “sometimes” we should be Catholic, like when we’re in church and not be the rest of the time, sentiment. Kids are naturally curious and interested in the lives of the saints. I do not think the lives of the saints are only for appreciation by mature adults if they so choose to indulge…And no, I don’t share your experience that people who do this are “not devout” whatever that’s about. It’s not about that, it’s just fun. Really people do this privately in most areas because of the condemning reactions about seeing a little kid dressed as St. Therese that the all too intolerant general culture brings to bear, unsolicited. No one is trying to direct their parish priest to dictate this to all…lol. It’s pretty much all about fun, and there is a measure of education in the sense that a kid gets to choose his or her saint and can get as creative as he or she wants with attending to the historical details of the costume. And it’s a Holy Day of Obligation besides, so a lot of kids will be asking why go to Mass when it isn’t a Sunday, and this is a terrific opportunity to impart a little info. Which a lot of parents are interested in doing seeing as how generally kids get on average of about an hour of isntruction in the catechism per week, and only for a minority of weeks out of the year, not counting homilies at Mass which may or may not provide that. Is there a problem with Catholic kids having some fun?

  29. ASPM Sem says:

    In reply to Billy et al:

    Was not the point of costumes on All Hallow’s Eve originally to scare away evil spirits? What better costumes to wear then that of the saints?

  30. benedetta says:

    Also, as to the “Halloween” versus “All Saints” thing that’s kind of a false dichotomy. A kid can really and truly dress up as the saint of his or her choice for both days and nights. Why not? If the adult secular world can dress up as a priest or a nun, then certainly there can be nothing wrong with a Catholic child dressing up and going trick or treating on Halloween night dressed as St. Damian of Molokai or whomever. St. Martin of Tours. St. Edmund Campion. St. Francis Xavier. St. Elizabeth of Hungary. Our Lady of Guadalupe. St. Francis of Assisi. Of course, when the kid tells his or her costume they just might get some horrified looks! Isn’t that what Halloween is all about? Scaring the daylights out of the neighbors down the street?? You could even do gore and horror…dress up as St. Lawrence after his grilling!

    Also as to the Puritan Prudish Protestantism accusation, it’s been going on quite awhile now that evangelical Protestants frown upon any Halloween entirely, and of course there is no mention of All Hallows Eve…it’s all Harvest festival there. And I guess if you go unitarian you’re doing the autumnal equinox with the druids? Yeah I think something is wrong when Halloween becomes a huge thing for adults and no kids allowed and there is little joy in it for kids. This way Catholic kids get at least two days and a night of revelry out of the whole thing.

  31. mamajen says:

    Sejoga, I understand where you and BillyHW are coming from, really. I think everyone here has experienced hypocrisy or preachiness from misguided people. But I think things don’t always need to be said. Sometimes its nice to just enjoy without overthinking, and people should be able to joyfully express their faith without worrying about who might be offended. We don’t know the family or their motives, and there’s something sad about using a cute picture of real, innocent kids to launch into a rant. I’m sure that neither of you means to say that dressing up in a saint costume is always wrong, so let’s just assume the best about this cute family and move on. The kind of people who you are talking about won’t be converted by an internet comment anyway.

  32. benedetta says:

    I will say that I know Catholic families who celebrate Halloween but not All Saints by dressing up as saints, and I also know Catholic families who do not celebrate Halloween but do celebrate All Saints with saints’ costumes. And there are families who do both. These are all acceptable choices where I am. I will say though that there are some families who choose not to celebrate Halloween, and this is not a particularly “Catholic” thing and as I said most public schools have had to now dictate what sorts of costumes people can have because as others here have said it’s out of control, but a lot of families feel that it’s become harsh and crass and not so much a fun thing for kids anymore. So, some instead celebrate All Saints, and, let their kids have the fun of dressing up and having a party. Should those kids just stay home? One could argue that the main thrust of the above photo in “doing it right” is that it’s a picture of kids, having fun. Whereas the picture that is predominating, as others have said, with this holiday nowadays is the picture of scantily clad adults getting drunk and spending a lot of money and time on decorations and food, for themselves. I think the picture of joy in a family, as Pope Francis is encouraging, is what’s “right” about it. This is really just one tiny idea among tons for this.

  33. msc says:

    One can have one’s cake and eat it here, if one likes the more gruesome side of Halloween. How about St. Catherine with her wheel tied to her back; St. Stephen or St. Edmund full of arrows; St. Bartholomew flayed alive (“nude” costume with lots red and lots of shreds of panty hose or such hanging off); St. Denis carrying his own head; Saint Lucy carrying her eyes about on a platter; Saint Agatha carrying her breasts on a platter…. One child can go as St. George and another as the dragon. Etc. etc.

  34. meippoliti says:

    I have had the opposite experience when it comes to children who choose to dress up as saints on Halloween…they are more knowledgable about their Catholic faith. They know more about the Saints, that Halloween is the eve of All Saints’ Day, and the candy can be saved until the actual feast day on Nov. 1. It takes research etc. to make costumes with all the symbols representing the saints the kids dressed up as.
    Sadly, many kids do no understand who the saints are and when I asked a class, one child said the Easter Bunny. Ask the kids who dressed up as saints who they are and be amazed on how much they know.
    One last thing, my kids dress up as saints may it be on Halloween, on All Saints’ Day Mass/potluck, or during free play at home. What better way to learn about the saints and our faith?

  35. The Cobbler says:

    “Me, I’m going as a human.”
    You really know how to be terrifying…

  36. MasterofCeremonies says:

    I know we could all think of some great reasons to participate in secular Halloween, but I found an article articulating a different position, here:

    You may disagree, but please read carefully and consider the actual points of the article before you comment.

  37. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Dr. Edward Peter’s asked, “If you can’t dress up as a saint on ALL HALLOWS’ EVE, when on earth CAN you dress up as as saint?”

    That is something I have been trying to look into, historically. Contemporary answers, in some parts of the world, include St. Martinmas and (days leading up to) St. Nicholas, with respect to those two saints. A third answer, contemporarily and historically, is Epiphany, with respect to (the variously spelled) Sts. Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. And Bernard Picart in volume V of his Religious Ceremonies and Customs of the World (1736) includes an engraved picture of Dutch Lutheran (!) children going about so dressed, and notes that this sort of going through the streets following a star-lantern singing and begging would begin in mid-November and go on until Epiphany!

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