Halloween has really irked me in recent years.
For one thing, there’s a beautiful Catholic tradition behind the celebration of October 31 that has got almost completely submerged by the Halloween phenomenon.
But mainly, there’s the fact that culturally it’s largely an American celebration and so, being an Australian, to me it feels even more commercially exploitative here than it clearly already is over there.
Halloween is derived from All Hallows’ Eve, with the noun hallow being the old English form of saint. It’s the day before All Saint’s Day on November 1. There seems to be a pre-Christian antecedent to the celebration in Celtic harvest rituals but it’s clearly the saints in heaven whom Christians are meant to commemorate and celebrate on Halloween.
For years our family has managed to largely avoid the whole Halloween hype. It’s been relatively easy because the neighbourhoods we’ve lived in for different reasons haven’t really got into trick-or-treating or Halloween parties.
In this house we’re on a really busy road with few young families along it, and in our old house five years ago one bag of fun-sized chocolate bars was plenty for the few children who came around. Our own children then young enough to just be happy that we allowed them to have some as well.
Plus, you know, this is Australia.
But dressing up as zombies and vampires and whatnot, and trick-or-treating is becoming increasingly a ‘thing’ in Australia too. A big thing. A thing that my now-older children increasingly don’t want to miss out on.
My husband and I have explained to the kids that:
1. We are not an American family, nor do we have American friends living near us
2. They already have Easter, Christmas, and LOTS of birthdays. They don’t need another calendarised excuse for eating sickening amounts of lollies (not candy, it’s lollies in this country)
3. We are a Christian family, so the focus for us is really on All Saints’ Day.
4. We don’t tolerate certain language in our home. ‘Halloween candy’ – candy anything – is definitely out. It’s lollies here. And not too many at one time.
Wow, hasn’t that made us the fun police. Especially as I haven’t actually got around to doing anything special on either October 31 or November 1 for the feast of All Saints.
So for the past two years, on October 31, our children have created their own Halloween fun. They’ve decorated the rumpus with bits of tissue and cotton balls for spider webs, and drawing up scary posters, then rehearsed and performed a scary play by torchlight.
We were pretty impressed by their creativity, actually. After last year I decided that since our children were basically celebrating Halloween anyway, my husband and I had better get on board, take it as opportunity for some family fun and tradition-building and also provide a bit of direction.
I didn’t have to look far to find some inspiration for getting into the Halloween spirit in a way I can live with.
Lacy Rabideau of the Catholic Icing website has done a great job with articles and craft ideas for celebrating All Hallows’ Eve and All Saints for children and families.
Ditto, the family behind the Showers of Roses site.
I’ll probably use the idea of Halloween as a Night of Light, and invite a couple of families over who have children close in age to ours, for a party close to October 31.
We’ll fill the party room (our rumpus room) with LED candles, glow sticks and fairy lights, and and have a sweets buffet with watermelon jack o’lantern centrepiece. Watermelon is much more appropriate than pumpkins for our warm spring Octobers. The kids can dress up as saints or angels.
I did a quick brainstorm of my own for tying in typical Halloween-theme decorations with our saints theme that would satisfy one or two of my older kids who want the gross and scary elements. They’re not super-original I’m sure, but we’ve got nearly everything here at home already which will make setting things up super-easy:
- Get some fake spider web and a couple of spiders, and drape it around a picture of St Therese of Lisieux. She was terrified of them.
- A toy sword with red paint for blood – St Joan of Arc
- A pair of fake eyes on a plate – St Lucy
- Toy snakes – St Michael the Archangel, Our Lady, Adam and Eve
- Handcuffs, chains – St Paul
- Lego people being mauled by toy lions, Roman colosseum-style
We will all still be eating lollies of course, not candy.
Halloween. Do you love it or hate it? (UPDATE: Check out the results of the little reader’s poll I ran. The poll is now closed.)
Image by Clem Onojeghuo