Editor’s Note: As you think ahead to All Saints Day, here is an excerpt from Angela Piazza’s article on how she observes the day with her family. Her full article appears in Tender Tidings Fall 2012, CAPC’s seasonal newsletter.
The first and foremost goal of Christian parenting is leading our children to heaven. We guide, protect, nurture and comfort. We assist them in times of need, celebrate their accomplishments, and deeply desire for them to be happy. It’s up to us to provide the spiritual resources they need to attain heaven, as ultimately, this is where true happiness exists.
In learning about the saints, our children begin to understand what it means to truly love God. Are they willing to part with their lives as the martyrs were? Do they trust that God is with them during times of trial, confident that there are reasons for everything? Do they hope and strive for heaven, knowing that He has already prepared a place for them? The answer of the saints was an unfaltering, “Yes!”
The stories of the saints are not fairy tales, yet include adventures, princesses, commoners, and the ongoing battle between good and evil. Discovering the saints’ intense determination to serve God is captivating, and acquainting our children with their courage and heroism will serve them well. Those who have reached their final, glorious destination are true models of faith, hope and love.
Forming any friendship requires familiarity, and celebrating the Feast of All Saints is a wonderful place to start making introductions. The Church has set aside November 1stof each year to commemorate all the souls in heaven. Preparing your children for this feast day can be as simple or elaborate as you wish. The key is to engage the children. Help them to see what incredible role models they have in the saints.
Our family tradition has evolved as our children have grown. When my older children were quite young, we intersected the sacred with the secular. In other words, our children dressed up as saints for Halloween. While trick-or-treating in this manner made sense to us at the time, the result was that our children were more impressed with their accumulation of candy than the incredible stories of the saints they represented. It was because of this observation that we implemented change. We wanted a celebration worthy of this wonderful feast, one that would not only be awe-inspiring for our children, but also memorable and fun.
Several weeks prior to All Saints’ Day, I ask my children to learn about a saint of their choosing. I help them research, through books and online sources, and discuss the lives and virtues of their saints. Each child then designs, in secret, a game or activity which relates to their particular saint, and provides me with a list of necessary supplies. Over the course of a week or so, the younger children team up with an older sibling, or with me, to work on their projects.
If you’ve attended an All Saints Day party, you’re likely familiar with the carnival-style games and activities I’m referring to. A few examples of what my children have created include:
- St. Elizabeth of Hungary’s basket toss, complete with bread and roses;
- a game of bowling down 2-liter bottle demons for St. John Vianney;
- a Bl. Pier-Giorgio inspired Lego board game with skiers as place markers;
- a modified version of “hot potato” (using a pretend coconut) for St. Damien of Molokai;
- St. Lucy’s scavenger hunt;
- Noah’s ark coloring page contest;
- Bl. Kateri’s cupcake decorating with candy Indian corn and pumpkins;
- A Communion of Saints wooden stick puppet crafting.
There are many clever ideas available online, but I encourage my children to use their own knowledge, along with their imaginations (rather than an internet search) when designing their activities.
On All Saints’ Day, our celebration begins with each child sharing a bit about the life of his chosen saint. One by one, each saint-themed activity is unveiled, explained and delighted in. We learn together, playfully compete with one another, and hopefully recognize that we are a part of something much bigger than ourselves.