It just wouldn't be October if blogging Catholics didn't take a break from political topics to discuss something innocent and harmless, like Halloween.
Okay, okay, I kid. But as I see various bloggers of repute addressing the matter, I see that we've reached a sort of Catholic blogger consensus on the important stuff, as follows:
1. Celebrating Halloween by dressing up as secular or even gory/gruesome characters and going out to beg the neighbors for free candy is fine. It is also not required.
2. Celebrating Halloween by having All Saints' Day parties and dressing up as saintly characters (even gory martyrs) is also fine. It, too, is not required.
3. Sexy/slutty costumes break the Sixth Commandment and are still not fine. If parents are dressing children below the age of reason to look like some trashy skin-baring rock or reality star, the parents are the ones who need to examine their consciences, as the child can't be morally culpable until he/she has reached the age of reason. Also, though dressing children like priest saints and nun saints is fine, dressing children in costumes designed to mock the Church probably ought to be avoided (Fr. Guido Sarducci imitators or those who think "pregnant nun" or female pope costumes are a scream, I'm looking at you).
Now, having said all of that, I have a confession to make: I'm glad my girls are old enough that I no longer have a dog (costumed or not) in this fight.
We did the "trick-or-treat" thing for a while. It really didn't work for us, for a variety of reasons which I've talked about before. Then we did awesome All Saints' Day parties with these great relatives. By last year, as their newest little one had so recently arrived and we'd realized that vigil Masses for Holy Days of Obligation really do work best for us, we were okay with stepping back from that too (though my girls would like to find some other occasion to get together and enjoy Aunt Charlotte's awesome pumpkin cake roll...)
And that's the thing Catholic mommy bloggers agonizing about whether to trick-or-treat or join an All Saints' party (or do both) may not realize: Halloween is for children. And before you know it, even your youngest will be "too old" for typical Halloween activities, as they move into a new and exiting stage of life, hovering at the brink of adulthood, but not yet there.
Sure, everybody says that Christmas is for children, and certainly some aspects of it are designed to appeal to the youngest members of every family, but it's not really the same, is it? Even when your children are teens and older, chances are you'll still decorate a tree, bake cookies, wrap presents, visit family, and do all sorts of things centered around the Christmas holiday. Older kids and young adults still join in the celebrations of things like Thanksgiving, Easter, and Independence Day, too--they may seem to go overnight from enjoying the fireworks to manning the grill for you, but they'll still participate. Halloween isn't really like that--sure, there are adults who love Halloween so much that they'll throw costume parties and play spooky music, but there's no pressure on the rest of us to join in. At some point, when your youngest child reaches the age where he or she decides not to participate in Halloween stuff anymore, it's just sort of...over. At the most, you might have to buy candy to hand out to the neighbor children, but if you live in a neighborhood like mine (small houses close together, sidewalks, parents dumping children by the carload from other parts of town so that you have to spend a small fortune on candy if you want to participate) nobody will fault you if you don't.
So, Catholic mommy bloggers: relax. Let your kids trick-or-treat if you want; do the All Saints' party thing if you want--heck, do both if you want and it works for your family. Don't tell people that dressing as devils and witches and going out to get free candy is a sacred holy Catholic tradition on the one hand, or that dressing as saints and playing games and eating sweets is a sacred holy Catholic tradition on the other, because the sacred holy Catholic tradition is to get to Mass sometime between nightfall*** on October 31 and the end of the day on November 1. And that's the part of this holy day that endures, even when your children are too old for Halloween.
***Timing of vigil Masses varies; I realize it won't technically be "nightfall" if the vigil Mass is, say, at 4 p.m. in a part of the country with later sunsets, etc.