Celebrate All Saints’ Day with children and open them up to the significance of those who have gone before and to the value of their own life here and now.
Halloween or All Hallows’ Eve or All Saints’ Eve or The Day Before All Saints Day. See the connection?
Growing up, I never knew this connection. I was entirely unaware that this super fun, candy-crazed, neighborhood run amok related to the day at church when we remembered our ancestors of the faith. To be honest, I don’t know that I ever celebrated All Saints’ Day as I grew up in the church.
What a loss! Because it is seriously such a gift to faith families, and one often under-appreciated. Celebrate All Saints’ Day with kids and teach them just how lasting our connections in the family of faith are and how profound the gift of life is.
Quick Facts About All Saints’ Day
When I hear the word saints I think of high church, gold gilding, stained-glass windows. But, really, All Saints’ Day was celebrated long before cathedrals were erected. Let me shed a little bit of light on the origin and practice of this very cool holiday.
This day of remembrance…
- …was first celebrated as early as the fourth century to ensure all martyrs were honored since martyrdom had increased during the persecution of the Late Roman Empire.
- …became a formalized holy day for the diocese of Rome in the middle of the 8th century when Pope Gregory III moved it to November 1.
- …Pope Gregory IV made it a holiday for the whole church, not only the diocese of Rome.
- …now honors all those who have gone before us and reside in the realm of Heaven.
- …is also known as Feast of All Saints and All Hallows Day. (A hallow was a saint or holy person.)
- …falls the day after Halloween.
- …overlaps with the Mexican holiday El Día de los Muertos, or The Day of the Dead, when people gather to remember family members and friends who have passed away and pray for their spiritual journey to Heaven.
- …is followed in the Catholic Church by All Souls’ Day on November 2nd, which commemorates all the souls in Purgatory readying for entry into Heaven.
- …is often celebrated by visiting the grave sites of loved ones who have died to leave flowers and blessings of gratitude.
Connecting in Both Life and Death
So, the days that close October and welcome November are rich with symbolism and honor both life and death. All Hallows’ Eve (or Halloween) begins the celebration on October 31st. Then, All Saints’ Day takes place November 1st. Lastly, All Souls’ Day happens November 2nd.
Remembering the dead is an important exercise of communal memory. Consequently, people of all faith traditions across the world honor and celebrate the dead with festivals. These rituals span history and culture.
So, how do we teach children the richness of life and the gift of those who have come before us? How might we use these days to highlight for them their spiritual ancestors and the importance of their life, too?
In current times, it’s common to feel disconnected and un-rooted. This is true for children, too. And the church provides powerful ways to connect, rooting us in community with one another.
These connections are celebrated on All Saints’ Day. We ask questions of our own lives as we remember those who have gone before us. What relationships formed me? Who did God use in my life? What moments and people showed me who God is? How will I be remembered? What will I be appreciated for? How can my life be used by God?
We are part of God’s endless creation; each of us a strand of yarn. God knits us together to create beauty, warmth, protection, and comfort in the world as we walk through life alongside one another. Not one of us is left out. Celebrating All Saints’ Day with kids teaches them that they, too, are a strand in God’s ongoing masterpiece.
Three Easy Ways to Celebrate
When celebrating All Saints’ Day with kids it’s helpful to set yourself objectives. Here, we’ve listed three activities that aim to teach children that…
- …all people are saints
- …we remember our spiritual ancestors
- …others’ lives can teach us how to live for God
- …their life matters
Faithful Depiction: Invite the children to draw a picture of a person who has passed away and from whom they learned a lot about life and/or their faith. Invite them to think of qualities in this person they would want to have in their own life. Tell them to draw those qualities and ask that they share with the class when all finished.
Candle Lighting: In worship or Sunday school, invite members to light a candle for each person they’d like to remember. Do this at one table up front or at stations around your space. For increased safety, use battery-operated tea lights. If you use these, use them for all people, not only the children. This will keep them feeling a part of the community. Invite those who are lighting to say something like, “We remember and thank you.”
My Story is God’s Story: Provide the children with booklets made out of construction paper. Invite them to write their life story, one event per page. Encourage them to illustrate their story and to look for ways God was with them and at work along the way. Discuss the ways God can change lives through their story.
We hope these activities are fun and powerful as you celebrate All Saints’ Day with kids in your church! How are you celebrating All Saints’ Day with kids? Don’t forget to share in the comments below!