Twofer Costumes for the Conflicted Catholic Family

Twofer Costumes for the Conflicted Catholic Family October 22, 2013
(This post originally ran at the Register on October 25, 2011)

I really don’t want to talk about Halloween.

I don’t think I’ll manage to prepare anything spectacular (read: anything) to celebrate All Saints’ Day this year.

I do, however, want to immerse my children in the richness of the liturgical year.

I don’t, however, have the energy to come up with any contorted logic about how dressing up as a zombie with bleeding eyes is actually a corking good, theologically sound method of laughing at the devil.

I do, however, let my kids wear costumes involving fake blood, severed limbs and terrifying mustaches, if the spirit so moves them.

I don’t, however, live in Amityville or Sunnydale, so as long as the little temporary pagans don’t show any particular interest in the occult or dark arts or whatever, they’re not going to slide into Satan’s arms because I let them think about creepy stuff once a year.

I do, however, understand the need to use caution.

I don’t, however, expect the candy to come home to me all by itself. Someone’s going to have to go trick-or-treating. Since I applaud myself for making it to the toaster and back without getting winded, that someone ain’t me; so that leaves the kids. But just to be on the safe side, I think it makes sense for Catholic families everywhere to cover their bases.

And so I present: a gallery of Twofer Costumes for Conflicted Catholics who can barely eke out one costume per kid, let alone one awesome one for Halloween and one inspiring one for All Saints’ Day.

These ideas are suitably edifying for any church-sponsored party, but edgy enough to earn you all the Mary Janes and Raisinets you can eat on October 31, all without mom having to make two costumes to satisfy her Catholic children’s double lives. (Note: My sister, Abby Tardiff, thought of all of these brilliant ideas over the years, except for the ones that aren’t funny. Those are my ideas.)

These fall into three basic categories:


It’s super easy to pick anything from the “gory” aisle, add a few props, and voila—martyr. Don’t like the ick factor? Don’t blame me, blame the persecutors! Be part of salvation history without looking like a sissy.

Hilarious on October 31:


but add a toga, and you’re ready to inspire:


Everybody loves a good sight gag:

especially when it’s Biblically sound:


And finally, you can terrify the normals with this fantastic cephalophoric illusion:


Or, well, terrify the normals with something from the more obscure annals of martyologies (hint: Bleach bottles become bishops’ mitres with a few strategic snips and some gold spray paint)


Not recommended: St. Agatha


These ideas are suitable for kids who won’t stand for being left at home, but whose legs are too short to do any significant candy-collecting on their own.

Check it out: You wear a bathrobe and skip showering for a week or two, and you can pass as either an OWS protester


or St. Francis.


And who’s this tagging along behind you?


Awww, it’s da widdle wolf of Gubbio! Or a werewolf, take your pick.

Or you could fulfill your child’s persistent desire to be Shaun the Sheep,


and if you do a bad enough job on the costume,


you can probably pass as a reference to William Blake’s Christological poem “The Lamb,” especially if you follow him around repeating in a skeptical voice, “Little lamb, who MADE thee? Heh heh heh heh heh … “


Take this idea, which clearly marks you as one of those people who may be a little bit too enthusiastic about Halloween for someone your age:


and rebrand it. With a few tweaks done in a sensitive and reverent way, you could easily be St. Christopher.


But don’t tell anyone it was my idea.

Who among us does not love a good toilet paper mummy?


Replace that sinister moan and lumbering gait with a fervent gleam in the eye and a distinct lack of rot, and you become, um, Lazarus:


But don’t tell anyone it was my idea.

What’s that you say? What are my kids going to be this year, if I’m so smart? I’ll give you a hint: So far I’ve made a long yellow wig, a golden fertility idol, a pair of little, round ears, and a cape that resembles black olive pizza. That’s right: We’re going, en masse, as the domestic church, and I just dare you to get in our way.

photo sources:
arrow propSt. Sebastianhead on platter costumeJohn the Baptist, head in jar costumeSt. Denismug shotSt. Franciswolf costumeShaun the Sheephomemade sheeppiggyback costume, St. Christopher, toilet paper mummy, Lazarus

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  • How funny, my kids have had a bunch of these exact costumes and I only started following your blog this year! If you’d like to see your ideas in real life (and some others) see here: One Part Catholic, Two Parts Awesome: Costumes for All Saints Day AND Halloween

  • Amy Caroline

    LOL! love it!

  • The Anti-Monitor

    I was just thinking you could throw in some Old Testament counterparts. For example, you could bloody up one of your kids and pin a stuffed bear to their shirt, making them one of Elisha’s she-bear victims. Or maybe dress your daughter as Judith carrying Holofernes’ severed head…

    • Melissa Hunter-Kilmer

      And then there’s the New Testament flip-side to Judith: Herodias with the head of John the Baptist on a platter. With some fancy costume footwork, one could be either Herodias (with a fake head of J the B) or John the Baptist (with a very tall Herodias). Herodias doesn’t have to be dressed for dancing, after all. Or she could wear an ’80s-style sequinned dress to make it funny instead of skanky.

  • Eileen

    One of these years, I’m going to get one of my kids to do that head in the bottle one. I love it! I hope my 15 year old decides to go out trick or treating at the last minute, I think I can convince him to do it.

    My 8 year old doesn’t do Halloween – it’s always freaked him out. Too bad too, because it’s one of my favorite holidays. But he will dress up this year as King David for the school All Saints’ pageant. I’ll offer him the option to carry around a dead Absalom, but I think he’ll probably opt for a slingshot instead. I love being Catholic this time of year – if you watch the All Saints’ pageant, you find there’s a saint for everything. My personal favorite from last year’s was St. Adelaide – patron saint of brides, princess, and in law troubles.

  • I am dying about St. Agatha. Good advice.

    • Peggy Bowes

      I totally cracked up on that one.

  • DeirdreMundy

    We also like the “Franciscan to Jedi” trick, the “Princess to SAINT Princess” trick, and the “St. King to Warrior” transition. But when the kids get older, we’re totally going the martyr route.

    Seriously– who DOES make two costumes?

  • mithril1971

    Thanks for the Sunnydale reference – that made my day! Also as someone who grew up with Halloween trick or treating (candy) and All Saints Day parties at a small Catholic school, my friends and I were experts at the two fer, relying often on “patron saint of” – though I have to admit one year to dressing up like a red crayon and going as “St. Ignatius of Crayola”…

  • richard

    I have been unable to find the artist’s name who painted the “da mihi in disco” work.

  • richard

    The head on platter painting is by Caravaggio.