When Halloween comes around the end of each October, Josh and I have a conversation with the girls. While it would be SO FUN to dress up and trick or treat, it’s just not something we feel comfortable doing as a Christian family. This was probably an easier decision for us since neither of us celebrated Halloween as kids, but with our own study into the origins of Halloween as it is currently celebrated, we knew it wasn’t something we – personally – could endorse.
It’s hard to be a kid and watch all your friends have fun, though. Fortunately for us, there is a holiday often overlooked, one that is actually the namesake of “All Hallowed’s Eve”: All Saints Day.
All Saints Day was first instituted in 735 AD by Pope Gregory IV, who moved the date from its previous observance in May to its new date of November 1st. This day was meant to celebrate the martyrs, and most likely emerged in the first few centuries after the Diocletian persecution of the church (which came before Constantine legalized Christianity in the 300s). The “saints” were (and are) believers in Christ and/or martyrs for the faith.
As time went by, All Saints Day came to include saints who were not just biblical followers of God or martyrs, but those who supposedly performed miracles and mystical acts. By Luther’s day, there were hundreds of saints being celebrated. Luther cut these down to the ones he saw as adhering closest to the biblical definition of a saint. Here is what he had to say about it:
“And if any desire to approve the introits (inasmuch as they have been taken from Psalms or other passages of Scripture) for apostles’ days, for feasts of the Virgin and of other saints, we do not condemn them. But we in Wittenberg intend to observe only the Lord’s days and the festivals of the Lord. We think that all the feasts of the saints should be abrogated, or if anything in them deserves it, it should be brought into the Sunday sermon. We regard the feasts of Purification and Annunciation as feasts of Christ, even as Epiphany and Circumcision. Instead of the feasts of St. Stephen and of St. John the Evangelist, we are pleased to use the office of the Nativity. . . . Let others act according to their own conscience or in consideration of the weakness of some—whatever the Spirit may suggest.” More here
This left the Lutheran/Protestant church celebrating the feasts associated with the life of Jesus (feasts usually adapted from the biblical ones; e.g. Easter, which means “Pesach” – the word for the Passover sacrifice). Saints from the Bible, especially the New Testament, were also celebrated.
Because we aren’t Catholic, we adhere to the Lutheran version of All Saints Day, celebrating the lives of the “faithfully departed” godly men and women in the narrative of Scripture and through church history, such as Athanasius, Luther, Wycliffe, Tyndale, Wesley and others. We don’t pray to the saints or ask them to pray for us; instead, we talk about their lives and do some Scripture reading, eat some yummy goodies, and each child gets a basket of candy. Below are some ideas and resources for your own celebration of All Saints Day!
All Saints Celebration Ideas
- Make cupcakes with a different bible character or saint on them. For this, I did vanilla cake with white frosting and bought silver sprinkles for the girls to decorate. The white represents the dressing of the saints in Revelation 19:8. For the saints, I was going to print out drawings of different bible characters and glue them to cake pop sticks. Instead, I found bible character finger puppets in the kids-craft aisle of Hobby Lobby! Just pop them onto the sticks and put them on each cupcake.
- Make a banner and decorate your dining room. I got the banner at Hobby Lobby (stationary aisle) and stickers to write “Happy All Saints Day”. We will reuse the banner each year.
- Have the kids dress up as their favorite “saint”/bible character. This is a fun activity! Who do they admire the most? If you’ve been reading about Christian leaders through history, let them pick a missionary, bible translator, pastor – anyone who is part of the family of God!
- Hand out All Saints candy baskets. This has literally nothing to do with the holiday, but since our kids aren’t doing what most kids are at Halloween, we decided to make it more special by giving them their own candy baskets. I got three little baskets from Hobby Lobby that we will reuse each year specifically for the holiday.
- Talk about faithfulness in Christian life. What makes a saint a saint? Talk with your kids about these heroes of the faith and what their example teaches us.
- Make an All Saints breakfast. I love cinnamon rolls, so this is my plan for this year. We can eat them while we do our Scripture reading!
- Do bible character coloring pages together. Many sites sell biblical coloring books and this would work just fine. I had my sister sketch up some coloring pages highlighting saints from church history too – the best of both worlds! My sister designed an entire series of early church father pages for my girls and was kind enough to offer one for a free download! Click this link to download the Clement coloring page, and here’s a summary of who he was to read to your kids: Clement-coloring-page
- Remember those who have died in Christ. This applies to loved ones who have passed away to join Christ. An important part of All Saints Day (and All Souls Day, the following day) is remembering those who have left earth for eternity.
Scripture Readings for All Saints Day
Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
Hebrews 11-12:1-2 (you can read the whole passage, but this last section plus Hebrews 12:1 is also sufficient)
And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name.
Celebrating All Saints Day connects our family to church history in a very meaningful way, giving us a set time each year to meditate on the strength of our Christian forefathers and what they teach us about life today. It also gives our kids something to focus on and look forward to without replicating the aspects of Halloween that we don’t agree with (those linked to Samhain).
I hope this gives you a few ideas for celebrating the holiday on your own! I would love to hear what you integrate into your All Saints Day celebrations.