Mary Perrin is the rector of St. Martin of Tours Episcopal Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan, a vital, joy-filled, generous community in the Diocese of Western Michigan. Mary also serves on the diocesan Standing Committee and on The Episcopal Church’s Lifelong Formation Council.
All Saints and All Souls Pumpkins
Halloween is not just a time to dress up and eat candy; it’s also a great time to teach the traditions of the church.
One thing we did in our parish – and people loved it so much that we did it at least 3 years in a row – was to carve pumpkins with symbols of saints for All Saints Day.
We had a Halloween party and, yes, people came in their Halloween costumes, and we had the traditional costume contests, gory food, and Halloween-themed games. But we also asked people to bring pumpkins and carving tools – and then we had a wonderful time carving the pumpkins together.
Kids helped. They helped choose the saint and symbol. They helped get the seeds and other gunk out of the pumpkins. Some, depending on age, helped carve. Most of the younger ones, though, went to the kitchen and, with help, prepared the pumpkin seeds to be baked into treats to be shared at church on Sunday and/or taken home. (There are many recipes for roasted pumpkin seeds available on the web. Here’s one we liked.)
Saints and symbols were chosen from books we had on hand. (Again, you can find symbols many places. One of the books we used was Saints, Signs and Symbols.) We enlarged the symbol with our copier and then people transferred the image onto the pumpkin however they wanted. Some used carbon paper, some used poker tools to poke holes along the lines, some used pens and did it by free hand. Then we used pumpkin-carving tools (e.g., knives, scrapers, exact-o-knives, pins, thumb tacks, small saws, drills, pokers) to carve out the images.
After the pumpkins were carved, we put candles in them, brought them upstairs, lit them, shared a few words about the saint whose symbol we carved, and then said our closing prayers looking at the flickering images. We left the pumpkins in church for our All Saints and All Souls liturgies.
How do you teach the autumn seasonal traditions in your faith community?