On Costumes and Candy

slightly edited wallpaper image by Zefhar

(you can get this cool desktop image
by Zefhar by  clicking the image.)

I wouldn’t normally bother writing this sort of thing, but I started to type out a comment and it got much too long and I realized that my thoughts were not really what were being sought anyway.  Jen at Conversion Diary asked those who don’t celebrate halloween to give their reasons.  Since I don’t quite qualify as the person she is looking for input from (though I used to be), here it is in my own space.

In our family, we celebrated, then didn’t celebrate, now we do again.

We celebrated initially because, well, that’s what “everyone” did.  Then we started to hear some of those arguments against participating that weren’t completely crackpot and were worth consideration.  We were not sure we completely agreed and were not sure we completely disagreed, so we erred on the side of caution and stopped doing the whole trick or treating/celebrating halloween (in the typical secular sense… we did still celebrate All Saints Eve in our own way.)

After many years of taking the kids out for pizza during trick-or-treat hours, doing our own bob-for-apples and letting the kids pick out “good” candy that we bought for them, we just kind of rethought it.

We, and our kids, weren’t any holier due to opting out of this fun time once a year for our own version of fun.  Our boys accepted it, but were never happy about it. They loved the costumes, the fun of going around the neighborhood and collecting goodies, seeing friends doing the same and so on.  They didn’t become “rude” (the phrase “trick-or-treat” was in no way a threat from them to the homeowners) or greedy nor did they insist on gory, evil type costumes or any of that.   And, as I said, they (and we) didn’t get any holier simply because they didn’t go trick-or-treating.

No matter what others may do to corrupt All Hallow’s Eve, we came to the conclusion and realization that it is simply a fun tradition here in America and that participating in it is not a danger to our kids’ souls.  The enemy of our souls is doing a good job at coming at this from two angles.  He inspires some to corrupt the day with deliberate evil and in others he causes fear of that evil and inspires us to opt out.  This is often, though not always, very divisive.  It sometimes leads to negative things… like pride, judging our neighbor (instead of judging the activities of 31 October for themselves) and so on.

I’ve met those who clearly have looked down their noses at us because we go around our neighborhood, dressed as Buzz Lightyear or Woody or a cat while collecting candy (that others freely give!)  I’ve also met those who looked down on us when we didn’t trick or treat:  we were mean parents, isolationists, freaks and so on.

My answer to the question of why we didn’t is simply that we were unsure and didn’t want to get it wrong.  We acted out of fear, I think, though it was not an overwhelming, paralyzing fear.

The bottom line is that celebrating halloween in the traditional secular sense does not add to our holiness, but as I mentioned before, neither did not celebrating it.  Celebrating does not take away from it, either.  There are lots of other things that influence my holiness, like whether or not I deliberately try to live the virtues, how often I get to confession and so on.  Taking the kids out for candy once a year is really not an issue.

We firmly believe that halloween is just a day of fun for kids across the country.    Even if some wish to corrupt a holy day, we find we can celebrate the secular fun without joining in the corruption.   There are some that mock the Mass, but we don’t stop going to Mass because that is true.  So many have reduced Christmas to a commercial, gift-giving holiday rather than a celebration of the Incarnation, yet we still celebrate Christmas.  We even give gifts!  That does not automatically mean that we have corrupted Christmas.

Though historically these two days are tied together (31 October and 1 November), the dressing up and collecting (as well as giving) candy and the celebration of the victory of the Saints are really two separate things.  It doesn’t matter to us if everyone else recognizes it.  It doesn’t even matter if others corrupt it.  Many good things are corrupted… human sexuality, marriage and so on, but that corruption doesn’t change them from good to bad.  It only shows how we can corrupt what is good.  Maybe costumes and trick-or-treating aren’t exactly a “good” (really they are kind of neutral) but that doesn’t make them evil, either.

We are sure to celebrate the Holy Day in many ways in our family (including celebrating MilkyWhite’s birthday!)  In “celebrating” halloween as well, we do nothing more than celebrate childhood and a fun (secular) tradition.  I wish we’d never lost sight of that, yet I also don’t spend too much time on regret.  It’s just costumes and candy after all.

About becomewhatyouare

Catholic, Middle-Aged, Knitting-Addicted, Wife, Homeschooler, Mom of 6, Mom-in-Law to 1, Mother of 11 little saints, Grandma to 1, Godmother to 12, Foster Mom to 5, Army mom, Happily living in Texas!
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9 Responses to On Costumes and Candy

  1. Rachel says:

    Great post! I grew up not celebrating Halloween. I remember being told that we were not to glorify Satan during his All Hallow’s Eve “holiday”. So I remember sitting at home during all the fun costume parties and gatherings of my youth. When I was in highschool and beyond I finally decided to do my OWN thing and dressed up and went to the parties. I loved it (and still like dressing up). I do NOT like the history of the “holiday” but I do think that it is possible to still enjoy in the festivities – dressing up, bobbing for apples, etc… while still being a witness for the CHRIST. 🙂

    Have a great day!🙂

    • Things like All Saints Day and even the day we celebrate Christmas were once days of pagan holidays (or close to them.) The truth is, the Church simply reclaimed these days for Christ. “All Hallow’s Eve” has never been satan’s holiday. All Hallow’s Eve (translated: the evening before All [holy] Saints day) is not the same as old pagan holidays. Never was.

      Everything is God’s. Every single day is His. Always has been. When people went astray, before they heard the Good News, they instinctively knew that they were to be seeking God. A desire for Him is written on our hearts. Without Divine Revelation, they ended up very far away from the Truth (something satan will always take advantage of) but those days never didn’t belong to God. Replacing the falsehood (whether through ignorance or by choice) with a the Truth, with a celebration of our older brothers and sisters in Christ and embracing the hope that one day we too will hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant… enter in to the joy of your master,” is not a bad history at all.

  2. Betsy says:

    Hi, I arrived here for the coloring pages and wanted to say thanks. You have a great blog. Oh, and I totally agree with your Halloween celebrations. We also debated and decided that it does no harm if kept in good spirit.
    Oh, and my oldest’s birthday is on Nov. 1st as well (turning 6) – what a great day for a birthday. Thanks again. Betsy

    • Thank you for stopping by and saying thanks, Betsy! It’s nice to know that someone is finding that page useful.

      All Saints Day IS a great day to be born!! Happy birthday to your oldest! (My MilkyWhite, our #5, will turn 11 on Sunday.)

      I hope you’ll come back and visit again! God bless you.

  3. While we choose not to celebrate Halloween (in the secular sense) for a whole myriad of reasons including shy children who scare easily, no sidewalks, people handing out candy wearing live snakes, and s** offenders in the area (just to name a few), I hope no one ever thinks that I look down my nose at anyone who does. I also don’t think it makes me holier to have an All Hallows Eve party, in fact, I probably should get to confession after the stress of preparing takes it’s toll, but then again I would probably need to go anyway after ranting about the snakes and s** offenders!

    I do have to admit to being a stickler for semantics though. Unless, someone is dressing up in a religious costume and going door to door for candy, I don’t get how dressing up in a non-religious costume and trick or treating is celebrating the feast day of All Saints. It isn’t. It is celebrating Halloween (as the world defines it now) but people act defensive like they think that is a bad thing.

    We celebrate secular holidays. Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving anyone? We might try to insert a prayer or two in there when we do, but we are still celebrating a secular holiday and no one feels the need to have to defend that.

    I think the difference is that Halloween evolved out of the celebration of All Hallows Eve and that’s where some Catholics think, “If I celebrate it secularly, then I am choosing the secular world over the spiritual.” That’s nonsense. Unless you don’t go to Mass on All Saints Day because you are too hung over on KitKats and Snickers, but that is between you and your confessor.

    Have fun and be safe!

    • I totally agree with you. It is a regular ol’ secular holiday with a history of being the celebration of All Saints Day. I never would have thought that you would look down your nose at anyone. Those people do exist, though, on both sides of the fence. Sad, but true.

      One thing I didn’t say, but probably should have, is that there is NOTHING wrong with opting out according to our individual consciences. I have the utmost respect for those who follow their conscience (whether it be from religious motives, parenting motives or whatever other motives one may have) even when different from me. This post was about our reasons for opting out and then opting back in and to point out that we celebrate both… halloween (secular) and All Saints Day and they are two different things for us.

  4. Oh Sue, I know there are those kinds of people out there on both sides and they really do try to make life miserable for the rest of us. I also never thought you would in anyway make us feel weird for celebrating the way we do. When I think back to the beginnings of our traditions, they really did have more to do with being concerned for the safety and psychological well being of our kids and less of a religious standpoint. I am just thankful that our Faith gave us a wonderful alternative that both my kids and I can be happy with. I feel sorry for those people who think they have to draw the shades, turn out the lights and hide from the world on Oct. 31st.

  5. mum6kids says:

    Went through all this too. We make lanterns out of pumpkins. Silly faces rather than scary ones. One year we did George and the dragon making a dragon pinata and the kids dressed up as St George. Sadly the dragon was “too scary” and had to be hidden-but the sweets went down well.
    This year the kids are invited to a non-Christian home ed families party. They’ll wear their dressing up clothes; fairy and Batman most likely and enjoy playing with The Incredible Hulk and his little sister.
    I really like the idea of the Mexican Day of the Dead and wondered about introducing a family version where we remember all our rels and friends and make sweets and cakes in their honour. Then through Nov we get to pray for them.
    Dunno yet. Just wondering.

  6. ammiejo says:

    We went through the same do we or don’t we. I felt like the most horrible parent because we did dress up and trick or treat. And thinking about stopping made me feel like a horrible parent too. Like the previous post, I decided to look at it like a fun holiday to celebrate and make fun memories with my kids.

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