Thursday, September 27, 2012

Take Back Halloween: a spiritual trick-or-treat

Growing up, Halloween was a hit or miss thing for my family. I remember fondly some school class activities, back when bobbing for apples was standard, with no thought to germs. During a spell of a few years, I also enjoyed trick or treating and dressing up. As I grew up, it was just another American holiday, and one that I honestly did not care too much for, though my sweet tooth certainly enjoyed the candy! And definitely, for this Protestant girl, was there never a religious parallel to Halloween. Ever.

Once I joined the Catholic Church as an adult, it really still was not until I had kids (which was soon after!) that we had to decide what we wanted to do with Halloween. I began to think about what Halloween means to me, what it means to all of us. Like most Americans, we let the kids dress up (that's fun!) and go trick-or-treating, which I think is overrated and would prefer to have a group of family and friends and do a fall harvest party. Last year we participated in some All Saints parties which were a definite hit and helped the kids understand a little bit that this day was not just candy and costumes, that there is a meaning behind it. Still, I feel the desire to bring the focus of Halloween back even more to what it should be about - death, the reality of evil, and the souls in Purgatory.

Ooh, that sounds like a fun topic, right? But it is true. During those three days - All Hallow's Eve, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day - we especially remember the dead and pray for them. As a child I feared eternal death, and really, still grapple with it, though now it is more fear of the physical pain of death, but this topic is one that I want to explore with my children. So that they do not fear eternal death. So that they know how to pray for the dead. So that they know they can pray for the dead and even help the dead be free of purgatory. So they know that we all suffer death, but we can also rejoice in death, knowing that one day we can be with Our Lord in heaven if we do (or attempt to do) His will on earth.

So, while the kids will dress up and go trick-or-treating, I am bringing back the focus to remembering and praying for our dead. Want to join me? I received this idea through a local homeschool group last fall, but filed it away for future use. You can make it as elaborate or simple as you desire.


On the evening of the last day of September (or whenever you can fit it in!), make a list of deceased people you know for each day in October (ask friends and family for names if you need them). You can put the names in a notebook, on scraps of paper and into a pretty autumn bowl, or hang it up like a countdown. I think we will hang up a ghost "people" chain vertically and take one off each day as we pray or perhaps mark the ghost in some way so we can leave them up as decoration. This post shows how to make a paper ghost garland (I will post pictures of our garland when it is up.).

For those who can attend Holy Communion, consider striving for a partial or plenary indulgence each day to help further these souls along in Purgatory:
  • Attend confession once per week in October, avoiding even venial sin.
  • Attend daily Mass and receive Our Lord.
  • Pray for the Pope's intentions (one Our Father and one Hail Mary).
For my family, since none of my children are of communion age, I will keep the prayers at home, go to Confession once a week for myself, and those days I attend Mass, I will strive for the indulgence.

Just imagine if hundreds (thousands!) of families did this! What a wonderful All Souls Day we would make - the treat of helping souls along into Heaven.

If you have names of deceased you would like us to pray for, please let me know, and we will add the names to our chain!

Finally, I found this history on Halloween quite interesting.


  1. Hi Nicole

    First, thank you so much for your sweet comments over at my means alot!

    I have struggled with Halloween myself...the Catholic Church isn't against it as much as other churches (at least I've never come across anything negative being said so far) but I have many friends who have 'educated' me, if you will.

    Years ago, I let my older children go trick or treating with their seemed like such a fun thing to do and I do love dressing up. A couple of years after I was shown some videos by a friend that made me sit up and think and I stopped letting them participate but I'd hide candy all over the house for them so they wouldn't feel left out.

    My youngest and second to last are begging to go this year and I'm sort of sitting on the fence so thanks for the info.

    I think your idea is fabulous! I love it and I will definitely follow your example. Thank you so much for sharing! My mother-in-law passed on recently and my youngest prays every night for her so it would be easy to extend this into other members of the family.

    Take care of yourself and God Bless!

  2. Nicole, this is a wonderful idea. I will start the list now! when we stop and think, there are so many sous that have gone before us whom we love and remember, and what a wonderful idea to actually make a list of our beloved family and friends who are in heaven now. ((Oh I was reading about St. Catherine of Genoa who has written beautifully about purgatory, and I understand her "teachings" on it have been embraced by the Church. I plan to find it and read it !!)


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