Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween, All Saint's Day and the Great October Debates

I love autumn.  I know I've said it at least a dozen times on this blog, because I'm still relishing living in an area with seasons again, but it's true.  And it's not just because of the crisp air outside, the awesome deals on apples (we bought 20 lbs last week and have had homemade apple cider, dried apples fresh out of the dehydrator, apple muffins, home made apple-pumpkin-almond ice cream and even apple-pumpkin porridge), or the beautiful fall colors.  It is because it is in autumn that I am most reminded of how much I love being Catholic.  

Don't get me wrong.  I know that Christmas and Easter are out big times of year.  But the changes in the celebration of Christmas and Easter as a Catholic weren't that huge (let's face it, it's not like I've made it through an Easter Vigil Mass since I've had kids).  Autumn though?  I love the feast days.  We've got Michaelmas and the Feast of the Nativity of Mary (let's just count anything after school starts as "autumn", m'kay?).  There's Saint Therese's feast day and Saint Francis' and our family patron saint's, Saint Martin de Porres (along with many, many more!  Those are just my favorites off the top of my head!).  And of course, there's Halloween and All Saint's Day and All Soul's Day.

I've almost been hesitant to say this out loud, because it's such a contentious subject every October in the Catholic blogosphere... but... I like Halloween.  I get why other people love it and why other people hate it and I find I fall somewhere in the middle.  I've read the various debates, but nothing has really swayed me, probably because, as we celebrate it I see nothing wrong with it.  

The kids get dressed up in cute costumes that Nani sent them (after a conversation with Sadie on the phone) and the have fun.  This year I had a jellyfish, a unicorn and a dinosaur.  We went to the zoo for their little party day and that was really the main event for us.  I'm not totally certain what we'll be doing on Halloween.  We may be at home.  I need to check the bulletin because I think there's something at our parish.  Last year we went to a local shopping center a few days before hand and did trick or treating there, in the icy cold wind with two little Cinderellas.

I'm not a fan of what it has become for a lot of people.  I cringe when I see pre-teen girls wearing the "sexy" costumes while strolling down the street with their families, who they're still young enough to trick or treat with.  I've felt the urge to take a Dad or two by the shoulders and say "Really?  Really?  You see nothing wrong with your twelve year old wearing that?!?!?!"  I don't, but I've been tempted.

In our house the kids get dressed up and run around and play (which means pretty much 4 out of 5 days around here are "Halloween" year round), and I actually consider letting them leave the house (more often) so they can wear them in public, instead of wrestling them into relatively normal clothing (and I know that most of the people who aren't Halloween fans probably wouldn't have a problem with that).  I'm not convinced that Halloween needs to be gory or gross either, as some proponents say (because I've seen a trend where people argue that it should be that way or you're doing it wrong).
So that's my two cents on Halloween.  It's okay.  The kids have fun.

But you know which feast day I love?

All Saint's Day.  

And guess what?  My kids love it too.

It helps that we started talking about how much fun it was going to be since they were tiny.  I'm sure the fact that we lived at the Ave law school for a year where most of the kids did dress up on All Saint's Day contributes to the excitement.  And it probably really helps that we have an oldest who's obsessed with religious vocations and would spend every day dressed as a nun if I let her... because she spreads the excitement through the house with her gleeful anticipation and delegation of costumes... since the little kids are too little to protest and all.

This year I made a mistake.  I was thinking of doing making something quick and green and calling Patrick "Saint Patrick."  Something easy, I imagined.  Then in conversation, I asked Sadie what she thought Patrick should be and she passionately answered that he just had to be Saint John of the Cross.

It took me a moment to realize why.  Saint John of the Cross was a Carmelite Friar.  Sadie will be going (again) as Saint Therese.  She wants him to match.

In a moment of insanity I agreed.  Then I put it off until the last possible minute, because that's how things tend to go around here.  Last night I started sewing.  I found a site that showed the parts of the Carmelite habit and suddenly my vision (which was a quick little brown tunic made from broad cloth) shifted and I found myself unfolding a huge piece of brown linen.  I'd been sucked in by my inability to not make costumes look as realistic as I possibly can.  And that linen was thick and rough and perfect.

I finished his tunic and half of the cowl last night.  I still have to sew his scapular (think big scapular) and mantle, and the hood in his cowl.  Since he's due for a hair cut I was tempted to do a mini tonsure just cutting the inside his regular length and leaving the outside long until the next day, but I'm not sure I could make it even enough since he doesn't hold still while I'm clipping away.    

I made the pattern up in my head.  I cut it out freehand.  I checked the length against a sleeper and hoped it would fit.  This morning I tried it on him to see if it would work before I went any further and it was perfect.  At least I thought so:

He was having a clingy morning and
being put down wasn't part of his plan for the day.

So I bribed him with a broken camera...

I'm either going to add buttons or ties to the back.

He was finally happy.

Halfway there!
I know fall can be busy.  And I don't let myself feel pressured to do it all.  Some years we go big on certain feast days.  Other days the celebrations are much, much smaller.  This year we watched the Therese movie on her feast day and didn't do much else.  But I also try to make breaks in our schedule to celebrate, have fun, and be inspired by the saints who's stories of heroic virtue can have such power in little hearts and imaginations.

I hope you have a blessed week and that you and your families are inspired by these beautiful feasts in the coming days!


  1. You missed All Souls Day. This year I was invited, along with others who have lost a relative from our parish, to process into the church with the priest; I'll be carrying a lit candle in memory of my mom. All the candles will stay on the altar during the mass, which will be offered for all their souls.

    I'm glad you like the changing of the seasons in Michigan. Could you come over and rake my leaves?

  2. I think I would pay money to see Patrick with a baby tonsure!!! :)

    Our little grandson Gabe turns 1 this Sunday, 11/3, the feast of St. Martin de Porres. It's really very apropos, as his folks are very much into service to the poor. My daughter stated that it would be a St. Martin de Porres themed party, and - though she has a wicked sense of humor - it wouldn't surprise me if it turns out to be the case! (As long as I don't have to levitate, or be nice to vermin, as was St. Martin...)

    The sisters at our Catholic school urged us to come dressed as our patron saint on Halloween; with my name (Marie Therese) I got to choose between the Virgin Mary and St. Therese de Lisieux, so I had it easy. I had a very authentic Carmelite costume for years.

  3. LOL! This year my goal is to rack our own leaves (it didn't happen last year!)!

    But isn't All Soul's November 2nd?

  4. Dixie Eagle I always remember your grandson's birthday because our due dates were so close! And I was sooooooo hoping for that birthday for Patrick!

  5. Love your views on Halloween AND All Saints' Day - that's exactly the way we feel about both those days! (Hate that it's become a point of contention at all, you know? Catholics are free to take part in Halloween or not take part, just like we can choose to have cable or not have cable, or any other non-essential decision like that. Every family is different, and even when they make different choices from each other for things like this, they can still be equally awesome orthodox, devout Catholics!) We like Halloween (don't like the sexy or gory aspects at ALL, but in general it's all just good fun) but we LOVE All Saints' Day. :) And we don't require that our kids dress up as Saints on Halloween, but my kids are still young and I have a feeling some of those All Saints' Day costumes might get "recycled" as Halloween costumes some years! ;) (I am nowhere NEAR the amazing seamstress you are!!!)

  6. All Souls' Day is, indeed 11/2. I know that because 11/1 was always a day off from Catholic school, and we were disappointed that the same did not apply for 11/2.

    Cam, I find it fun to see what Patrick is up to, as he is so close in age to Gabe. Such a sweet age.


  7. I like the points you made about celebrating Halloween. Your dd looks so sweet in her saints costumes and that tiny Saint John of the Cross is so adorable


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