What are your feelings about Halloween?
It’s been a dilemma for me to work out how to adjust to the relatively new and mostly secularised Halloween culture in Australia. As kids we always went to Mass for All Saints and All Souls Days but here in Brisbane, Australia, in the 80s and 90s we never dressed up in costume, went trick or treating or made any scary decorations. In the last few years, I have resisted any involvement. This week, however, I have been pushed to work out my new approach to Halloween.
Cara, our 4-year-old daughter, attends a Kindergarten and the teachers have been really into Halloween costumes and decorations and so now she is too. Why early childhood centres are keen to have scary costumes and decorations without any context is beyond me. See the bottom of this blog to see an example of the Halloween activities the Kindy children are doing.
Now, I’ve worked out my answer. Instead of it being an ‘either/or’ situation, I’m going to fill out this Halloween experience for Cara with faith and meaning through All Saints and All Souls children’s activities. So my husband and I are creating new traditions for home to go along with her secular experience at Kindy.
Our Halloween Children’s Activities Bucket List
1) Explore the history of Halloween in conversation, explaining it’s context as the evening before the Church’s All Saints Day which is then followed by All Souls Day.
2) Go to Mass both days in person or virtually
3) Explore, make and wear Saint costumes. Keep it simple and pick a colour robe, dress or outfit and a symbolic prop. For ideas see google.
4) Have an All Saints Day Fancy Feast where the snacks link to different saints. See the list below with 15 of our family’s favourite Saints with symbolic snack ideas to start you off (including Woolies links)
5) Create a little prayer table with photos of family and friends who have passed away and light a candle and say a prayer for each one and pray a litany of the saints
6) Create glass cups candle holders for the All Souls and All Saints prayers. Write (with colourful, permanent pens e.g. Sharpies) the names of loved ones who have passed away and favourite Saints on simple 75 cent glass tumblers from Kmart
7) “Souling” part 1**: Reach out to a couple of neighbours or friends and offer to pray for their loved ones who have passed away and any other intentions they have. If need be, take a special ‘prayer notebook’ to write the names and/or intentions in.
8) “Souling” part 2**: Make “soul cakes” and share them with friends and neighbours. I found this easy traditional recipe online. However, using that traditional recipe for inspiration, my oldest daughter and I will make simple cookies with a cross cut into them
9) Visit a cemetery and pray for the dead
10) Watch Saint Videos on youtube or you can purchase Saint movies through Christian suppliers too
11) Watch Disney’s movie, “Coco” as a bridge between secular and faith world
** “Souling” – the original trick or treat – was when poor children would knock on their neighbour’s doors and offer to pray for the people’s family members who had passed away. In return, the neighbours would give the children ‘soul cakes’ with a cross marked on them, like hot cross buns at Easter.
All Saints Day Fancy Feast Ideas
I will print out this list, ideally with a pictures of each Saint and matching symbolic food included, and place it on the table for reference.
1) St Mary Mother of Jesus: heart-shaped biscuits as she shares the heart of Christ or make your own. Or Queen or mother-themed treats.
2) St Joseph: bake simple flat bread or buy barley bread as this what he would have eaten daily
3) St Peter: a ‘rock’ themed treat e.g. rockmelon or a fish-themed treat e.g. Fish Fingers
4) St Mary Magdalene: anything spiced-themed or Easter egg- themed e.g. hardboiled eggs and the kids can decorate the shells like Easter eggs
5) St Thomas: hummus, cheese, olives, tomatoes and dried fruit – what the disciples would have eaten at gatherings
6) St Matthew: gold coin chocolates
7) St Francis of Assisi: Caramello Koalas (or any animal themed treat)
8) St Helena: carrot sticks and cucumber sticks (or anything) in the shape of crosses
9) St Anthony: anything brown to symbolise his robe or anything like a halo e.g. cinnamon donuts (brown coloured halos! – also, my daughter requested donuts)
10) St Teresa of Avila: I love her ‘interior castle’ made of crystal metaphor, so we’re simply going to serve ‘crystal ice cubes’ in water in ‘crystal castle’ cups
11) St Rita, anything brown or rose-themed e.g. Roses chocolates
12) St Gabriel the Archangel, anything white-themed or wing-themed e.g. Chicken wings
13) St Mary MacKillop, cups of tea
14) St Josephine Bakhita, rice or polenta dish
15) St Nicholas, the first Santa, anything red e.g. red strawberries
That is our family’s bucket list of Halloween children’s activities to bring the Holy back into Halloween… We will see which ones actually happen! Although, we’ve got the whole month of November, really, thanks to the Church! I’m sure teachers could take one or more of these children’s activities too!
What do you do for Halloween? I’d love to hear about what you do and I can share it with our daughter!
Secular Halloween children’s activities from my daughter’s kindergarten
From the daily newsletter:
“This morning when we came into Kindy we discovered that our book ‘Room on the Broom’ had turned into a giant version! We think it was the witch who has moved into the Kindy room and into our new witch role play area. She cast a spell and we all came up with ideas about what other spells she can cast. After reading the story we decided to think of spooky things that we would add to our own witches brew.
What next: Just a reminder that we are inviting the children to dress up for Halloween tomorrow. Come in your spookiest or prettiest costumes! “
I had been kind of struggling with the scary and superficial nature of the secular Halloween stuff that has taken over my daughter’s kindergarten. Why early childhood places feel compelled to decorate with skulls, spiders, ghosts etc without any explanation of a loving, faith context is beyond me. To me, it seems consistent with the effects of a culture of death, hedonism and consumerism that I see in other areas of our society. I feel compelled to show her there’s way more to it.
And now, I’m grateful to the kindy because I had neglected this beautiful part of our faith and now I’ve embraced it more than ever. This Halloween, we’re going to have a fun and meaningful time and grow in faith and love as a family.
By the way, our daughter ended up going to Kindy as Glinda the Good Witch from Wizard of Oz after we talked about the good and wicked witches in that story.