Keeping the Hallows in Hallowe'en

The saying "Keep Christ in Christmas" has become popular among many Christians today, and praise God for that!  But we think there are several more Christian holidays that need to be reclaimed after being hijacked and sterilized, if not paganized, by secularism.

St. George & the "dragon"
It's also important to keep the Hallows in Hallowe'en.  How many people in our culture have never been taught what this bizarre modern fright-fest is really about?  While the honoring of the martyrs/saints of the faith goes all the way back to the first Christians, the official feast became part of the liturgical calendar in the fourth century.  Then, Pope Gregory IV transferred it from May 13 to November 1 in the year 844.  Since the holy ones are called "Hallowed," the day honoring all the saints in heaven became known as "All Hallows."  The evening, or "e'en," before the feast became "All Hallows Eve," which was eventually shortened to "Hallowe'en."

The history of how we got to what most Americans know as "Halloween" is fascinating, although not easy to decipher exactly what happened.  But even the appearance of demons and the like has Christian roots.  In preparing to celebrate our heroes in the faith, those who have triumphed over death and entered heaven, we can have hope in the same destiny for ourselves.  Thanks to Jesus Christ, we no longer have to be afraid of death or the devil.  In fact, we can even mock death like St. Paul did as he recalled the prophets Isaiah (25:8) and Hosea (13:14) in 1 Corinthians 15:55:  "O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?"

Unfortunately, the modern celebration of Hallowe'en has twisted this mockery of evil into a glorification of it.  And that's a big problem!  Fr. Steve Grunow said it best:
"There is a lot that is unsavory about the contemporary celebration of Halloween. What does the singular focus on violence, horror and death have to say about our culture? The traditional, Catholic Halloween placed these realities within the context of Christ’s victory over sin, death and the devil. The current secularized version of the festival has no salvific content and has been loosed from its theological moorings. It looks very much like a festival of death for a culture of death..."
So how should a Christian respond?  How do we be in the world but not of the world?  How do we teach our children the true meaning of Christian holidays?  How do we teach them that living as a Christian isn't simply a negative rejection of evil, but also a positive acceptance of an invitation to joy?  How do we make sure kids don't get the false impression that being a Christian means not having fun?

Of course, with each holiday, there is more than one way to do this.  I know some who send out their kids "trick or treating" dressed as saints, as a way to evangelize.  And I've heard of other great ideas like this one that might be in our future.  The bottom line for Christian parents, I think, is to make sure candy (especially the greedy-grabbing variety), jack-o-lanterns, ghosts, and spider webs don't overshadow Jesus Christ, His saints, and our call to be one of them.

Here's what it looked like for us this year...

Sarah spent several hours making their costumes.  This year John Paul wanted to be St. George, so we decided to make Kolbe the "dragon" George is known for slaying.  (Who knows what Kolbe will think of this when he's older!)  With Sarah, the kids made saint puppets and cupcakes on Hallowe'en.  That night we went to a party at our friends Elias and Claudia's house, where we prayed a Rosary and the Litany of the Saints, venerated the saints with candles, and feasted on pizza and treats.

On All Hallows/Saints Day, Sarah and the kids joined me for Mass at my school and then showed off their costumes to my students.  Papa and Meme dropped off a couple presents, including an Old Testament "saint" action figure, Joshua.  That evening we joined over 100 others at a big party hosted by the priests and brothers of a new order, the Servants of Christ Jesus, where we prayed the Litany of the Saints, took some swings at a devil pinata, competed in a costume contest, ate/drank a big feast (including steak!), roasted marshmallows, and basked in the joy of being Catholic!  Each kid also took home a new holy card and lots of candy.  As an aside, this Solemnity happened to fall on a Friday, which meant that feasting trumped fasting.  Love it when that happens!

Can you guess which one Daddy painted?

Making puppets of St. George, the dragon, and the princess.

Proud of the saint cupcakes.

Playing an "All Saints" version of Guess Who?
The wicked dragon doesn't look too comfortable next to
St. George and the Queen of All Saints, understandably.

Ready to fight evil.

The dragon is defeated!

Our Godson, dressed as his namesake, Blessed (soon-to-be Saint) JP2

Again, the dragon is scared of the holy, including St. Therese
(Incidentally, we discovered these two were born on the same day!)

John Paul venerating the saints.

Claudia made the same saint cupcakes!

Love this sign they put up for trick or treaters.

The boys (or should we say Sarah?) were one of four winners in the costume contest.

John Paul enjoying time by the fire with his best bud, Joseph.

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