Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Halloween--or Not?

I've had a lot of trouble with Halloween, much more so than with issues like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. I have good Catholic friends who celebrate it, and those who do not. I have been riding the fence back and forth for a couple of years. I grew up with Halloween, mind you, but that was 35-40 years ago, in a more innocent time.

Two years ago we celebrated Halloween. Since we live in a rural area without the usual Trick or Treating, I threw my kids a little party. We played "Pin the Head on the Headless Horseman". We decorated pumpkin and bat-shaped sugar cookies. We had a treasure hunt with spooky clues, which lead to the candy treasure. We had a cake that had chocolate spiders on it. The kids had a marvelous time of it.

Last year I began to look at some of the arguments against Halloween. It has become decidedly less kid-friendly and more ghoulish. The annual parade in in Washington Square Park, NYC (I was five years old and in the very first one, when it was just a few kids in dime-store costumes) is now a huge gay and lesbian extravaganza. Pagans and wiccans have claimed it as their holiday. So we scrapped Halloween last year and had a little All Saints party. Pretty much the same activities, but replacing the mildly creepy stuff with the saints.

It wasn't quite the hit the Halloween party had been. The kids hardly remember it, but they recall everything about the Halloween party the year before. Maybe if we had a homeschool group that threw an All Saints party it would be more memorable and more fun for the kids.

I began to talk to some of my friends about it to see what they are doing. My turnaround came after talking to one Catholic mom I think of as far more holy than myself, and whose opinion, therefore, I value. She is a Third Order Carmelite, and certainly concerned with pleasing God in her life. She can be quite scrupulous. So when she told me that she celebrates Halloween with costumes (albeit nothing ghoulish), Trick or Treating in their housing development and even spooky food items, I was genuinely surprised. She explained that she looked at it as an American tradition, and not of any religious significance one way or the other. Just mildly spooky fun.

Yesterday I read this post on Conversion Diary. Jennifer is asking the same questions I've been asking myself the past couple of years about Halloween: why, or why not? And the responses were good reading. There was also this article on taking back Halloween and enjoying it.

So, the bottom line is, we are having a Halloween party this year. Since it is at home, I can keep it innocent and fun. Games, costumes, a treasure hunt, a few "spooky" treats and a few episodes of Scooby Doo. The kids are excited and honestly, I am, too. We don't have any decorations up, but maybe next year. And what are we doing for All Saints? I love Aussie Annie's party plans and games, but I can't manage two parties in a row. Well, we will go to Mass of course, and at home I hope to have a dessert to mark the special day. Charlotte has so many saints coloring pages, I will let the kids pick a favorite saint to color. And they can watch some videos and dvds we have on various saints. We may even have a little bee on the saints and see how much the kids know. We can keep it simple and holy.


  1. I agree with your friend. It has taken me years of struggling, though, to get there. I feel sorry for my older three children - back and forth - back and forth! I am quite at peace now with the younger four having a mildly spooky good time! The older kids are happy, too, that Mom has relaxed a bit over the years. My children know their Catholic faith well, and Halloween is something fun from my childhood that I want them to experience! It is also a time that our neighborhood actually feels neighborly.

    Have fun... JMJ

  2. Good for you Nadja. I totally agree with you. I am not a big fan of candy and sugar - and don't like devilish costumes - but that aside it really is an American tradition - my kids usually dress as Saints. Last year though it was a political theme - Abby was Sarah Palin and Nick was Joe the Plumber. This year they are on their own - they have to come up with their own costumes!!

    BTW my kids LOVE you - how cool that you like the men behaving badly clip!!!

    You know - we have to avoid falling into the judgemental and over religious trap. I know I need to lighten up. I have this draft post on Saint Francis - the guy just overflowed with joy.

    off now - most of our school day still left...

  3. I am there i am a missionary baptist that has recently done alot of thinking on the pagan things that we have celebrated along the years. and wonder if i should stop now and tell my kidos it was all wrong.

  4. It's a little far, but you guys are always more than welcome to join in the Nashville homeschooling activities. We do have an All Saints' Day party as well as other stuff, should you get the urge to come to the big city. We'd love to see you! :)

  5. Good for you. I have a very devout Catholic friend who very eloquently pointed out that she refuses to give up Halloween. It is our (Catholic) holiday(All Hallow's Eve), and she will not let the devil worshipers and wiccan folks take it over. She dresses her kiddos up as Saints and has an All Saints party, followed by neighborhood Trick-or-Treating.
    Her very strong stance really touched my heart, and made me realize the need to keep this innocent tradition. So I let my kiddos celebrate. I am also quite vocal in my neighborhood about needing to keep it a fun event for kids. No creepy, icky stuff.

  6. i love your little vintage greeting! so cute. and that game looks like great fun!

    and i totally agree that a bit of mildly spooky fun never hurt anyone!


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