Explaining Halloween to Catholic Kids- How it Goes With All Saints’ Day, or “All Hallows Eve”

A few days ago, I wrote an article titled “Do Trick-or-Treating and All Saints’ Day Go Together?” where I revealed to you that my family goes trick-or-treating dressed as Saints. I view this as being witnesses to the world, and taking back our own Catholic feast day of All Hallows Eve. (In fact, I wrote an article a few years ago about putting the “Hallow” back in “Halloween”.)

explaining halloween and all saints day to catholic kids

So, how do you explain How Halloween ties into All Saints’ Day to kids?

“Hallow” is a word that means “Holy”. We even say it in the Our Father- “hallowed be thy name”. We celebrate All Saints’ Day on November 1st. This day can also be called “All Hallows Day” because it’s the day about all the Holy people- the Saints. The day before All Saints’ Day is called “All Hallows Eve”, just like the day before Christmas is called “Christmas Eve”. Over time, people just started saying “Halloween” instead of “All Hallows Eve”.

Although we go out dressed as Saints, lets face it. Most people don’t. There are going to be plenty of cutesy costumes, such as fairies and super heroes, but there are certainly going to be witches, goblins, bleeding people, and even multiple devils and demons.

explaining scarry halloween stuff to catholic kids

So, how do you explain all the scary Halloween stuff to kids? Here’s what I told my kids.

We know that All Saint’s Day is about the Saints. Saints are simply people who are in heaven with Jesus, so they are all already dead. Over time, people started forgetting that this holiday was about the Saints, and they got confused, thinking it was really just about dead people.

My daughter really seemed to understand this answer. Of course, when they get older, you can explain to them that the Catholic church used to purposely place religious feast days over pagan holidays in an attempt to steal some thunder, and it has actually worked quite well. That’s a little complicated for the little ones, though.

When we are trick-or-treating, even people in scary costumes are pretty courteous about kids. No one wants to scare a child. It’s not like as we trick-or-treat that bloody people are popping out of bushes with chain saws. It’s pretty family friendly, and doesn’t seem to be a serious issue.

See all my resources for celebrating All Saints’ Day with Catholic kids here.

 

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Comments

  1. Here’s an excerpt from an article on Halloween that you might find interesting:

    On Halloween we also dress up in costumes. This practice arose in France during the 14th and 15th centuries. During the horrible bubonic plague, the Black Death, Europe lost half of her
    population. Artists depicted this on walls to remind us of our own
    mortality. These pictures and representations are known as the “Dance of
    Death” or “Dance Macabre.” These figures were commonly painted on cemetery
    walls and showed the devil leading a daisy chain of people into the tomb.
    Sometimes the dance was re-enacted on All Soul’s Day as a living tableau,
    with people dressed up as the dead. But the French dressed up on All Souls,
    not Halloween, and the Irish, who celebrated Halloween, did not dress up.

    The two were brought together in the colonies of North America during
    the 18th century, when Irish and French Catholics began to intermarry. Thus
    the two celebrations became mingled, and we began dressing up on Halloween.
    It is, as we can see, a very “American” holiday, but Catholic as well.

  2. Great ideas for explaining Halloween to kids, without losing sight of the faith!! This is how I also taught my CCE students of how the word “Halloween” came to be used. One thing I’ve heard and read about Halloween is that one reason people started wearing costumes is that they wanted to “fool” the demons and bad spirits that they imagined flitting around on All Hallows’ Eve. They believed that All Saints’ Day honored those in heaven; All Souls’ Day honored our loved ones in purgatory. Since that left out the “others” down in the netherworld, people believed that those lost souls might wreak havoc on the living. So they would disguise themselves as such, to ward off any harm. Of course, there are many stories and customs out there that could explain a lot of Halloween customs. But it’s good that we as Catholics counter the “bad part” of Halloween with the more reverent side of it!! (sorry for the long post!)

  3. I was just reading a really good article on the Catholic origins of Halloween, i think you would enjoy it.

    http://dzehnle.blogspot.com/2010/10/halloween-is-not-pagan-festival-period.html

  4. While I agree with keeping All Saints Day as the primary reason we we “celebrate” Halloween….there is a lot more history here than “taking it back.” Most Catholic feast days have their origins in pagan feasts and we tried to replace them. However, it is believed that on the eve of a great feast, “demons” come out and especially try to tempt Catholics to sin so as to keep them from being ‘eligible” for Holy Communion on All Saints Day. You can actually still find many European countries actually hanging skeletons and monsters around as part of their CHRISTMAS holiday decorations for the exact same purpose. People thought if they dressed as ghouls/demons they’d “blend in” in and not be tormented by the real demons. Unfortunately, our culture loves to lean toward the godless and macabre and the whole concept of the relationship between Halloween and All Saints Day has been lost…..a great many have rejected God along with his saints. I like to hand out saints holy cards along with candy on Halloween. The kids almost ALWAYS ask “what is this” and it opens the door for the conversation! Please know that I understand precisely what you are saying and I have a garage filled with saints costumes for All Saints Day parties…..but there is a “logical” and historical reason people dressed as ghouls on the eve of ALL great Catholic feast days….the sad part is, most people have forgotten the great feast days. ;-(

  5. Here’s a couple more, and I also heard that Wikipedia has a very good article on the origins of Halloween. Lots of good info out there.

    http://www.crisismagazine.com/2011/dont-trade-halloween-for-reformation-sunday

    http://www.unamsanctamcatholicam.com/apologetics/86-contra-protestantism/389-is-halloween-pagan.html

  6. While I was growing up, in a very small community, we celebrated Halloween as a community event. There were costume contests for all age groups, carnival type games for all, food, movies for tweens (Bugs Bunny), a haunted house put on by the high school kids, and a dance in the school cafeteria. All events were in the school (which was a K-12 building). It was SO much fun. Miss those good times. But, before going to the party at school, we all dressed in our costumes and went to mass! Father always explained the meaning behind the day and the history in his homily. Then we all walked over to the school. The event is still going on today.

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