Kids love holidays. Many parents do too. Holidays, such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Valentine's Day, remind us how special life is. They remind us that there's more to life than work and obligations, that life should be cherished and enjoyed. Catholics believe that God is present in all things and in all times. That means that every day on the calendar presents another opportunity to encounter and celebrate the presence of God in our lives. Holidays, whether specifically religious or not, are excellent times to engage in special activities and rituals that help us not only to observe the spirit of the day but also to make a connection between the holiday and our faith. Here are some suggestions that might help you do that.
Each year, Halloween seems to receive more attention in our culture. It's a billion-dollar industry involving decorations, candy, costumes, and fun and scary activities for people of all ages.
Though some people worry that Halloween is fast becoming just another excuse for marketers to sell their wares, it doesn't have to be that way for your family. This holiday is rich in history and meaning, much of it religious, making it a great opportunity to combine fun and learning about values for our children.
A Quick History
Halloween as we know it is a mixture of pagan, Christian, civic, and cultural influences. Various cultures have associated the day with witches, ghosts, and goblins. Many people trace its roots to an old Celtic festival when the Celts believed the veil between the living and the dead was particularly thin. It was thought that, on this night, the souls of those who had died could cross over into our mortal world once again. When Christian missionaries won over the hearts of the Celts, this popular feast was moved from spring to fall and celebrated as the feast of the Eve of All Saints Day. Halloween comes from the word hallowed meaning “blessed” or “holy.” So Halloween is the night that eagerly anticipates the celebration of our living connection with all the faithful who have lived and died before us. It is fitting, then, that on the night before All Saints Day, our families remember and celebrate in a special way our belief in the Communion (close connection) of Saints to our own lives.
Why "Trick or Treat”?
In the late 1800s in the United States, youngsters would go around their neighborhoods on Halloween night pulling pranks and doing mischief like soaping windows and toppling outhouses. In the 1920s, various civic groups encouraged the practice of children dressed in costumes going from house to house seeking peace offerings from the householders with the gentle threat: “Your choice, either a trick by us or a treat from you.”
Ways to Celebrate Your Values on Halloween
- Your kids can research their favorite saint or the saint they're named after. They could also dress up as their favorite saint for Halloween.
- Tell your children that Halloween can be a festive day to kick off the celebration of All Saints Day. We ask the saints—our spiritual ancestors—to pray for us on our own journey to holiness.
- At breakfast, recite a short litany of family members who have died and whom you remember in your prayers. After each name, have everyone say, “Pray for us.”
- Have fun! Make a special meal for dinner. Here's a quick idea for a healthy meal to offset the abundance of candy. Give each child a paper plate. Put out bowls of olives, cucumbers, radishes, raisins, dried apricots or cranberries, cheese sticks, and cold cuts. Have the kids make faces on their plates with the food. They can make scary faces or funny faces or both. Then everyone gets to eat what they created.