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Bishops’ Halloween advice: dress children up as saints, not witches

By on Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Children dressed as saints in a costume workshop in Kansas (Photo: CNS)

Children dressed as saints in a costume workshop in Kansas (Photo: CNS)

Catholic parents are being advised to celebrate Halloween by dressing up their children as popular saints instead of witches and devils.

They should kit out their youngsters to look like St George, St Lucy, St Francis of Assisi or St Mary Magdalene rather than let them wear costumes that celebrate evil or occult figures, according to a campaign endorsed by the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

Nor should pumpkins have menacing or scary faces carved into them, according to a website link provided by the bishops’ conference, but must wear smiley expressions and have crosses cut into the foreheads.

Party games during the October 31 revelries should also have a distinctively Christian theme, parents are told, with musical statues, or chairs, danced to music by “contemporary Christian artists”.

Trick or treat pranks are definitely discouraged, with Catholics advised to light bonfires instead in an attempt to re-brand Halloween as a celebration of the triumph of the forces of light over the forces of darkness.

The suggestions for a Christian-style Halloween end with the idea that children each take a wrapped present from a box plastered with such slogans as “Jesus is our light”, “Jesus is our king”, “Jesus loves me” and “Jesus is the biz!”.

Adults are also being encouraged to place lights in their window “as a sign to passers-by that yours is a Christian household and Christ is your light”.

They are also being asked to wear a white garment as a symbol of their “allegiance to Christ, our light”.

The bishops are launching the campaign in an attempt to reclaim the Christian festival of “All Hallows Eve” that, in their opinion, has become dangerously paganised and heavily commercialised.

They want Christians to understand that Halloween was once the vigil feast of All Saints’ Day, which is celebrated on November 1 and which remains a Holy Day of Obligation.

Bishop Kieran Conry of Arundel and Brighton, chairman of the bishops’ Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis, said: “Halloween is now the biggest commercial festival after Christmas and Easter, and it is time we reminded Christians of what it really is. The celebration of feast days is an important part of our Catholic culture.

“On the evening of October 31 why not do something to make your faith respectfully seen and heard?” he said. “Light a candle or display publicly another kind of light, for example, perhaps alongside an image of Christ.

“This could be a powerful way in which we can show people that we have hope in someone other than ourselves. The light will provoke questions and is a way that people can be signposted to goodness. I encourage everyone to participate.”

It is the first time the bishops have ever endorsed “the Night of Light”, an international campaign to reclaim Halloween that was started in 2001 by Damian Stayne, the founder of Cor et Lumen Christi, a Catholic community.

The initiative has been gaining ground among Christians left uneasy by the emphasis on horror themes in modern Halloween celebrations.

This year it will run in partnership with the bishops’ Home Mission Desk as a way of following up the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Britain last month.

Among the supporters of the “Night of Light” is Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster.

As Archbishop of Birmingham he complained about the “increasing tendency for the popular mind to make the association between Halloween and secular if not pagan imagery”.

He asked every parish to “think about what it could provide in the late afternoon and evening of Halloween in order to express the life of the Church and indeed in families that this is the beginning of a feast in which we rejoice in the work of God seen in his saints and cause of great inspiration and joy to the world”.

  • Karmenu of Malta

    This is another praiseworthy drive towards the real meaning of the Christian message. I suggest that the religious leaders in my country should take up the idea and adapt it our local situation.

  • Francis of A

    Sorry but this is pathetic and desparate.

  • Catholic Superman

    No, This is necessary.

  • HangThePope

    Give me a break. How can people not be embarrassed to be Catholic.

  • Realistic Catholic

    Do the Bishops not think it is difficult enough to hold our heads up as Catholics at the moment considering the damage the paedophile priests scandal (and the Pope's handling of it) has done to our reputation? Are they trying to make us a laughing stock so we can understand how the persecuted early Christians felt?
    Halloween is a time for kids to dress up and have fun. Perhaps the Church should look internally at serious issues such as the celibacy of the clergy (is the relationship to paedophilia cause or effect or completely unrelated), condoms in Africa (let's be honest – sex is not solely for procreation so let's not pretend it is…), and their attitudes to homophobia and the negative effects the demonisation of a natural act has on our society.
    Or hey, let's try and turn the clock back hundreds of years – yes that'll work!

  • Faith Helps

    Political correctness gone mad – I thought we had got rid of all of that nonsense when we got rid of the last government. Dressing children up as saints instead of witches is, in the minds of children, putting Halloween and all that hokey on the same level as the Communion of Saints. The lives of the saints are supposed to act as an inspiration to our children not as an excuse for dressing up. Halloween should be treated, as I must say it always was in my house, with the ridicule it deserves. A time for watching silly films which we are know are a load of nonsense. Dressing up in ridiculous costumes and carrying around brooms which we ordinarily would use to clear the leaves off the lawn. It is called having fun. If you treat Halloween this way children will grow up with the correct view that it is a load of old hokey and just an excuse to eat too much chocolate, play a great deal of silly games and dress up in ridiculous costumes. To whoever thought up the idea of dressing children up as saints I would say I find the whole idea not only ludicrous but also offensive. Saint Francis and Saint Ursula have always been a great inspiration in my life and indeed when I was a teacher (left the profession thanks to the late government) I taught the lives of these saints to help my pupils realise that there are other role models rather than Cheryl Cole. Now it would appear the saints are to be put on the same level as Harry Potter.

  • Bwaj

    No it is not.

  • Bwaj

    I suggest you study your Catholic history. We have always celebrated the vigil of All Saints (Hallowe'en). It was only stole from us by Pagans and Satanists after the repeal of the ancient Witchcraft Act in 1951 – an act which should never have been repealed.

  • Laboure

    Hi Realistic Catholic.

    your comments do not come from a real Catholic as you do not have any grasp of the authentic faith.

    Perhaps your an atheist wearing a Catholic handle as a Halloween costume?

    Your comments are shallow and naiive.

    Shame on you for calling yourself Catholic, Perhaps you should start your own religion as you do not adhere to any of the tenets of the Catholic faith?

    The present Halloween culture is the thin end of the wedge for procuring interest in the occult and the drug culture. if you are not aware of that then you're very behind the times and need to catch up.

  • Catholichome

    You can find lots of Saint Costume Ideas at http://www.catholichomeandgarden.com

  • Janeg1964

    That's the whole point – it's not supposed to be hokey, it's supposed to be reverent and mean something, and the feast day was hijacked by the secular world. Halloween means “All hallows eve”, hallow meaning holy. You're right to say “The lives of the saints are supposed to act as an inspiration to our children” and what better way to honor them than to have our children learn about them and emulate them. Especially on the one night of the whole year that precedes their very own feast day. I can't, for the life of me, imagine why you would have a problem with that. And by the way, you shouldn't be dressing your children up as witches anyway, because the bible is very clear about how God feels about divination and magic and sorcery, all of this is idol worship and against the very first commandment. Why on earth would a practicing Christian want to dress their kid up (thereby glorifying) as a person who by their definition is in direct opposition to God? Your argument makes absolutely no sense… I can't think of a better way to teach our kids NOT to be politically correct than by explaining to them the beauty of the saints, and have them dress up as someone very counter to today's society.

  • Janeg1964

    I AM NOT EMBARRASSED TO BE CATHOLIC. Let me repeat that. I AM NOT EMBARRASSED TO BE CATHOLIC. Jesus Christ is the first Catholic. The Roman Catholic Church is my inheritance and my way to eternal happiness. And in case you're not sure I AM NOT EMBARRASSED TO BE CATHOLIC!

  • Choose life always!

    Living my faith every day helps make me a better person, having a daily reminder through prayer that I should love everyone I come across, forgive those who hurt me, choose life, respect and encourage my kids and husband. Going to Mass calms me , fills me with peace and helps me to get through daily life. I meet others who try very hard to live a good life this way, active Catholics. I am filled with joy!
    Evil happens in all aspects of life…even in our Church, it is not a representation of all the church, all the thousands doing good, sacrificing themselves for others, not splashed all over the media. This is the reason I'm not embarrassed to be a Catholic. I go with what's in my heart, not what is reported by those who would like to see us disappear! I am proud to be a catholic !

  • Karmenu of Malta

    How can anyone imagine that as Catholics we should be embarrassed? St Paul wrote: ” As it is written: There is not any man just.” (Rom 3,10).

    On the other hand, holiness shines forth from a great many Catholic (and non-Catholic) people; none of whom would ever claim to be without sin. At the end of our lives, we shall be judged on the strength of our faith and on our performance, and not on the sins of other people.

    I publicly declare that I am a convinced and practising Catholic, through no merit of mine. I thank the Lord for that.

  • Halloween

    Halloween's origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (sow-in). So in my opinions it's not really even to do with Christianity… Christians changed it around the 800s…

    But that is an entirely different debate…. But why try to ruin such a fun childrens holiday with political correctness? Children get to dress up as whatever they like, witch, skeleton, princess, fairy… whatever they choose, get to eat sweets and have fun for the night. Why ruin it by getting so serious about it? Yes it's important tell them about the saints and teach them about your religion but also don't take it so seriously and ruin it for them they're only young once…

  • HangThePope

    Hmmmm . . . . I'm not sure . . . . could you say it again? LOL

  • HangThePope

    I just had a stroke of genius . . . . your article has inspired me . . . . let's rename Halloween . . . . . “Dress Like A Pedo Day”. That would be accurate in the vast majority of cases. Thank Zeus I was not born catholic and a priest never had a chance to violate me like has occured to many, many innocent children in the past, and no doubt the present and future. Never mind my joking about this stupid article which is a truly meaningless piece of drivel. The child abuse is why you should be embarrassed to be catholic! Obviously, the doors to reason do not open from the inside. I won't be surprised if this comment gets deleted cause we all know how well Catholics can cover up stuff that could “embarass” them.

  • Glad to be Atheist

    Really? You should be. How can you blindly follow pedophiles as leaders?

  • Glad to be Atheist

    Halloween is all about dressing up as imaginary characters. They should start dressing up as Jesus too. Drag themselves along with a big cross. That's sounds pretty Halloween-y to me.

  • Monster1

    If you dress like Saints for Halloween can we dress like monsters for christmas and easter?

  • Persephone_1_queen

    Thanks! I've been online half the day looking for something like this!!

  • HammerDoc

    I have long held this belief. I haven't dressed up as anything other than a Fransciscan (if I DO dress up) for years. My kids have either been saints or something non-demonically themed, such as a ladybug (a symbol of Our Lady), etc. I take it as a time to teach about Purgatory, prayer for the poor souls and how Purgatory is an example of God's mercy.

    It is a great lead-in to November, and when I do this, even at 3, 4 and 5 years of age, the kids haven't asked questions about prayer for the poor souls in Purgatory–they take to it like ducks to water and even have begun to ask to stop and pray for the poor souls when we pass a graveyard!

  • Joe the amused

    It's a shame the Herald article didn't mention Debra Fuhrman, a non-catholic lady (as of the date of the article) who began a costume business called “Our Coats of Many Colors” in little Cummings, Kansas. I went there, took the photo and wrote the story for my paper, The Leaven. I have to tell you, I had a blast meeting her, her Catholic neighbors who work with her, and the kids who posed in the costumes. Debra's workshop was a fun, positive, and joyful place. In contrast, the comments by Francis of A and Hang the Pope are so pathetic, hateful and ignorant. Go suck a pickle, sourpusses!

  • Joe the amused

    Fuhrman runs a business called Our Coats of Many Colors in Cummings, population 580 or so, and as best as she can tell, it is the Catholic children’s costume capital of the world.

    That’s quite an accomplishment for Fuhrman, a member of the First Christian Church of Atchison. Until just a few years ago, she didn’t know the difference between St. Tarcisius and tartar sauce. Fuhrman gives a lot of the credit for her success to her Catholic neighbor and friend, Maria Rioux, a member of St. Joseph Parish in Nortonville.

  • http://ufo.books.officelive.com/default.aspx Reganclan

    HALLOWEEN – THE TRUTH AT LAST

    What the bigots ‘DONT’ want you to know about this ancient, native, Pagan British festival

    http://www.ufodigest.com/article/halloween-truth-last

    http://www.supernaturalufo.com/index/newsid/7792/halloween-the-truth-at-last

  • HammerDoc

    I would say I'm PROUD to be a Catholic, but really, I feel more GRATEFUL than anything else to be Catholic.

  • HammerDoc

    “Realistic Catholic?” You are in fact, NEITHER.

    Why don't you take a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and a Sharpie marker. Rip out every page that has a teaching you don't agree with, and then (if you have any energy after all that ripping I KNOW you're going to do) cross out the word “Catholic” and write your own name on the front with the Sharpie.

    That, at least, would be more intellectually honest.

  • Rebecca8

    This is a very sensitive subject as it happened to someone I know:

    Some time ago, my friend allowed her children to hold a halloween party, they all dressed up as witches and gouls and as half term fell during Halloween she let her children stay up a bit later than usual.

    A friend of one of her children who was 12 a the time, unbeknown to her brought a ouijie board to the party.

    The kids all joined in including my friends 8 year old. As my friend thought they were playing duck apple etc she sat in the next room with her sister to have a chat and let the kids have fun.

    The kids began to 'play' the ouijie board as such for about 15 mins, until my friend happened to look in on them to see if all was ok. Of course she was not happy at all to see them messing about with a ouijie board. She told them to stop and they wrapped up what they were doing. She asked the kids who had brought it into the house and one of her kids friends admitted to bringing it along for a laugh.

    Some laugh! – two days later, things started happening at my friends house. Objects would get moved around by themselves, taps turned on and off with no one touching them, electrical appliances turned on by themselves. Her child started to perform very badly at school and had been one of the brightest pupils. Her once happy go lucky enthusiastic helpful eight year old became severely depressed, and swore a blackness was following her around. Her husband lost his job, both her pets were struck down my a mystery illness and died within a month.

    Many mishaps befell the family until my friend was so desperate, she turned to the local vicar, who referred her to a Catholic Priest.

    When the Catholic Priest come to see her at her house, he asked her various questions about the family etc. His face paled when she told him about the kids playing the ouijie board, and that one of her kids friends had brought it along without her knowledge.

    He explained to her if people only knew the damage such articles of darkness can unwrap, they would never have anything whatsoever to do with them. He also told her because Halloween is shown by media and TV as being harmless, its an excuse for people to mess about with the occult. Such practices can be most dangerous, and he'd had to cleanse many houses and people because of their involvement with them.

    At the house he entered each room and blessed it praying as he went.But unfortunately the happenings, even though were a little less they still persisted.

    It was only a few weeks later when the Priest said Mass in the house (even though my friend is not Catholic) that the incidents stopped.

    The eight year old was not so lucky and eventually a Priest from Rome was called who came and blessed her and performed an excorsism on the child.

    She is now back to her happy self and no longer sees the darkness following her around. Also all strange activity has ceased. The husband prayed to St Joseph and obtained a new job, miraculously.

    This is only a short synopisis of the story, but I guess we all should be aware of the conotations an 'innocent game' can reap, and therefore, maybe we should really get back to our Christian traditions and celebrate what was always the Feast of All Hallows – the Feast of the Saints.

  • Mamasnookems
  • MissWitch

    That has got to be racist (or religionist, or whatever). Christianity has already turned our aincent Samhain festival into some kind of mugging situation, now you have to make it even more Christian. You took Yule from us and turned it into Christmas, took Ostara and turned it into Easter, you do what we do on Samhain and turned it into 2 things: a, halloween, and b, All saints day. You turn Imbolc into Candlemas. STOP STEALING OUR TRADITIONS. Signed, an outraged Wiccan.

  • TwilightYagami

    Jesus was Jewish actually.

  • TwilightYagami

    I feel that Catholics would be offended by others dressing as their Christ. Besides, if a child misbehaves while dressed as a saint, wouldn’t the saint be defiled? (Another minor reason I quitted Christianity)

  • anyone

    Let me tell you something..First of all Christmas has always been a Catholic and Christian tradition and yes it was a tradition. And really if anything YOU took Easter from us. OK. And All Saints Day is and will always be a tradition for the Catholics!! 

  • Guest

    I think it doesn’t matter that much whether children do dress up in pagan costumes, but, no matter which religion one belongs to, parents should take care that their children don’t dress up in costumes too scary for the young ones. Basically I think this feast got too much focused on scaring people instead of providing fun for the littlest. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    I hope Archbishop Nichols moves on from his good words about pagan Halloween to closing down the pagan Homo “Soho Masses”.

    Some hope ……..

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    The devil is a very bad historian, and so are his followers.