26 October 2007

A hallowed eve

Being a parent is hard. Prior to having kids, things seemed so black and white. Things were right or they were wrong. The Church had spoken on just about everything that concerned me. I was going to say being a parent is hard mostly in trying to figure out the best course of action, but it's hard through and through.

The latest thing that is troubling me is Halloween. Some Catholic families don't celebrate it in the more secular way. Others only allow their children to dress up as saints. Still others go all out with decorations, parties and costumes.

I'm somewhere in the middle.

I understand the pagan connections to the holiday. I know about the horrible things that are done on this night by Satanists. I know of the Catholic connections to this day. But now that I'm a parent, knowing where to draw the line isn't so cut and dried. I am responsible for the souls of these little ones and I don't want to lower the bar, but I also don't want to cloister the kids from perceived spiritual dangers that I think can be dealt with if confronted head-on.

When I was a kid, Halloween was one of the great holidays. There weren't any decorations at our house other than the carved pumpkin, but the dressing up and going trick-or-treating kept us antsy all day in school until we were finally let out to run home and get ready. Back then, once the sun went down there were thousands of kids out in the neighborhood. My mom was the one who stayed home to hand out candy and never closed the door from dinner time until after 10pm, when several bags of candy would've been exhausted. Since my father was a closet artist, he would do the make-up for our costumes. The neighbors always wanted us to come by to see the "work" my father had done on us.

The neighborhood was alive with people and lights from the houses. Everyone had a good time, except the occasional curmudgeon who turned off his lights and pretended not to be home. Some neighbors would open their garages and serve hot chocolate or booya. The moms at friends' houses always had a special bag of goodies for us, often times they included home-made cookies. There was little of the "tricks" and a lot of the "treats." Except, of course, the time the "bad kid" in the neighborhood blew up my next-door neighbor's mail box with an M80. And, there were stories of psychopaths putting razors in apples and a host of other dangers, but none ever transpired. Back then, there was a sense of communal fun and camaraderie that we just don't have today.

Now that I'm a parent, a Catholic parent, where do I draw the line? My parish has a Saints Party and all the kids have to be dressed as saints to attend. We have not attended any of those parties since my kids have only ever dressed as animals, not saints.

So, as a parent, where do I begin? Do I celebrate Halloween at all? My answer is yes. There is a great deal I can do to keep this a Catholic-themed holiday in my home. Since both of my parents have passed away, there is a big emphasis on the month of November. This is a great time to talk about Purgatory, the Communion of Saints, Heaven, sin and charity (for the Poor Souls). To shy away from this holiday because our secular society has made everyone scared of their neighbor and the Satanists and pagans do all they can to insult our Lord, seems to be a little too "cut and run" for me. With all the abuses surrounding Christmas: secularism, materialism, modernism, PCism, etc., I certainly hope the Christians don't allow their holiday to be hi-jacked and turned into something that doesn't even resemble the birth of our Lord. This is kind of how I feel about Halloween. I plan to use it as a time for family, faith and education.

Dressing as saints. I certainly don't have a problem with parents dressing their kids as saints. I am sure I will do it one of these years. But, I also don't have a problem with dressing up as an animal or even a super hero or cartoon character. No witches, ghosts or things like that, but to be a horse, as my son was last year, shouldn't bar him from the parish party. When I was a kid, everyone dressed as a gypsy, but guess this is too un-PC to do any more. However, I don't think kids should be allowed to dress as politicians...just too scary for most folks.

Our Halloween night routine consists of my PIL coming down from Wisconsin. They spend some time with the kids and then they man the house and hand out candy while we go door-to-door at some of the neighbors. Then we pack the kids in the car and head over to my aunt's. They get some pictures taken and delight Auntie before we are off to another aunt and uncle's. By this time, it is usually getting kind of late and we head back home to relieve my PIL of their duties. Since my kids are still pretty little, I usually spend some time praying to combat the abuses going on this night on my own. Once the kids are old enough, I think we will make it a family thing to cap off the night with prayer.

Then November novenas will begin for the Poor Souls. I hope to keep Halloween alive in our home with a Catholic spirit and some candy.


Entropy said...

I worried about Halloween early on with the kids but to me it was always just dress up and get candy. I think that's all it will be for my kids.

Our church has an all saints party too except this year they're having it ON Halloween and not All Saints Day. *grumble*

We've dressed as witches and zombies. I don't think it's too terrible or sending the wrong message.

tara said...

When I raised my kids, we were secular--no religion--so my kids loved the holiday--they dressed up as eveything--We didn't think of dressing up as a vampires as evil--it was just fun.

If I were raising children today, I would probably let them choose--with the explanation that if the picked something "evil" they may not be allowed at the parish parties--and why.

Have a fun holiday!

WhiteStoneNameSeeker said...

We will make the pumpkin lanterns because they are fun. The small kids will dress up as heros or saints and fight a dragon made of papier mache.
We will toast marshmallows on the fire and have fun.
We will also say special prayers for their grandmother and other family and friends who have died and light some candles in church.

My view is that just because the pagans want Samhain back with all the darkness that entails doesn't mean we have to be miserable.
We have the Truth and the hope of God's mercy for our dead and as pumpkin tastes so bad-GOd must have intended they be made into lanterns, don't you think? ;))

God bless

swissmiss said...

Thanks for the great comments everyone. I don't usually sweat about stuff, but Halloween was making me wonder if I was embracing our secular culture too much, but then didn't want to be extreme either. I was happy that went my son went to bible study on Thursday (not our parish) and told the teacher and other kids he was going to be Spiderman, that he didn't get any backlash. This is the first year he's picked his costume and this is what he wanted. He's never even seen a cartoon with Spiderman or owned any Spiderman figures or comics, but was attracted to the costume! So, that's what he's going to be this year. We've already carved a pumpkin (and, WSNS, my son wanted to taste some of the "guts" and found they weren't too good!!! Yuck!!) and tomorrow we will probably make cupcakes and/or apple crisp. I agree, we shouldn't be miserable. Childhood is supposed to contain some fun!

Ma Beck said...

I am pretty sure God wants us to have fun.
Halloween is FUN.
That's it. It doesn't have to mean less, and it certainly doesn't have to mean MORE.
I mean, come on - it's All Hallow's EVE - so much hand wringing over the dang EVE of a holy day.
It's all good - have fun, don't let the kids sacrifice goats, and all is well.
Halloween is one of the most fun parts of being a kid - your parents actually encourage you to ask the neighbors for candy!
How great is that?

I am all for raising Catholic kids, but I would no more ban Halloween than I would ban their birthdays. (How Jehovah's Witness of me!)
Halloween is at least the eve of something holy. A birthday is a celebration of me, me, me!

swissmiss said...

I wasn't thinking of goats, but have been trying to find a way to get rid of the rabbits in my yard that destroy my plants (*evil laugh*). My neighbor feeds them!

I had a cousin that was married to a Jehovah and holidays and birthdays just weirded her out.

gemoftheocean said...

100% agreement with MaBeck. One thing I could add is this fun kids holiday is RUINED when adults get their "overthink" into it. Unless your parents DO sacrifice goats and do creepy things with crystals and pentagrams, NO WORRIES. For 99.999999999999999999999% of kids on planet earth this holiday is all about dressing up in their fantasy costume and scoring as much candy as they could possibly eat. Do these same adults throw the Hitchcock movies away, or refuse to let their kids read Hansel and Gretel? Who DOESN'T get a kick out of going "boo" and seeing some stuffed shirt totally lose it? If the fundies get their way, this will be ruined just like too much adult involvement in kid's sports ruined sandlot baseball for too many. God forbid the kids get a pickup game using a paper plate for 1st base, a paper back with a rock for second and the family dog for third. Whatever happened to "do overs?" Now ever minor decision requires a ruling from the supreme court. It doesn't have zippo to do with saints holidays, wonderful as they are - parents should just be supportive of the kid's fun and try not to be too didactic. I think Paul at OTSOTA caught it just right. "The kids will be doing costumes, we'll be scarfing on popcorn watching scarey movies. It's all about the candy and the fantasy and the bump in the night. Whatever Twain said at the beginning of Huck Finn applies here. Don't overanalyze and don't let the fundies spoil this too. What are they going to ruin next? Are they going to claim the tooth fairy promotes gay values?