Costumes for All Saints Day AND Halloween: One Part Catholic, Two Parts Awesome

by | Oct 11, 2013 | 7 Quick Takes, Costumes, Liturgical Year, October, October, Pop Culture | 27 comments

I love the tradition of Catholic schools and homeschool groups doing All Saints dress up days in lieu of Halloween costumes. (When my son was enrolled in Kindergarten at our parish school, the Halloween costume parade was the straw that broke the camel’s back for us. One adult-type Dorothy costume and TWO pimps later . . . we were homeschoolers by Thanksgiving.) 

It’s a great way for kids to learn about and connect with the saints. Our homeschool group has an All Saints pageant every year, and it’s probably my kids’ favorite event.

But All Hallows’ Eve is just as much a Catholic holiday as All Saints Day and <stamping foot> darned if I’ll let a bunch of poorly catechized college girls wearing tube dresses and carrying a prop steal it from us. 

So WE will do both thank you very much.

But that doesn’t mean I have the time or resources or inclination to sew/craft/create/buy two separate costumes for each of my children. 

My deal is, I (with a LOT of help from Nana and Grandad) will provide them with an All Saints costume, and they’re on their own to create their Halloween costume of choice from our dress up clothes and/or recycle bin. But in recent years, we’ve been coming up with twofer costumes that will work for BOTH days. 

Oh, and I should warn you that I think some scariness is good for my kids, I have a great devotion to the martyrs, and I am just contrary enough that I have no problem showing up at a gathering full of children dressed as priests and princesses with MY child sporting a severed neck that’s squirting blood. Which brings me to costume number one . . .

St. Denis / Guy Carrying His Own Head



Cephalophore. Repeat after me children: suh-PHEL-uh-fore. Still can’t pronounce it? They Might Be Giants can help:


Cephalophores (Greek for “head-carrier”) are a classification of martyrs, noteworthy for having had their heads cut off, but that not really being a problem for them. St. Denis, for instance, picked up his head and walked six miles back to his church, preaching a sermon the whole way. Awesome sauce.

He’s in good company too, there are nearly thirty cephalophore saints to choose from.

We made ours from scratch, based on this tutorial. We used a backpack as the base, and made shoulders and a neck stump of paper mâché. We cut a slit in the bishop robes for Jack’s actual head to stick out of, and stuffed the sleeves of the robes and some long gloves to look like his arms. For trick or treating, he dressed in a big trench coat instead.

I never got used to seeing him in this costume. It is VERY disconcerting.

For this year, Jack is working on a St. John the Baptist / Head on a Platter costume. It should really be something.

Cowboys and Indians

We started with a flesh colored shirt that we drew abs on, because St. Sebastian is holy, but dude is also totally ripped. My dad took straight sticks from the yard to make the arrows. They were attached, half on each side, to a piece of coat hanger bent into a horseshoe shape. One bent coat hanger went over each shoulder, under his shirt. We cut little holes in the shirt so the arrows could poke through both in the front and the back.

If you don’t want to try to make the arrows yourself, a few joke-shop Arrow Thru the Heads
would probably work over the shoulders.

For All Saints Day, he wore a loin cloth. For Halloween, he put on some jeans and boots and a cowboy hat.


Betty does not want a gruesome costume. She wants a pretty costume. But those can be fun too. Last year I sewed her a St. Kateri costume. I could have saved time and money just buying her this Indian Princess costume, but hers turned out really cute and she was very happy with it. It also worked quite nicely as the Indian to go with Gus’ cowboy for Halloween. She was, however, utterly scandalized at my suggestion that she carry a bow in order to be the Indian who shot Cowboy Gus. The very idea! She sees herself as more of the Pocahontas / Sacajawea assisting helpless white folks-type Indian maiden.


St. Longinus / Roman Centurion



We actually bought the plastic parts of this costume at the Coliseum on our first trip to Rome, which makes it VERY authentic, right? Nana sewed him the red tunic underneath and the red cape, but complete Roman Warrior Costumes
are widely available.
St. Philomena / Drowned Maiden
2018 UPDATE: Since writing this post, it has come to my attention that Philomena is not, and actually never officially has been, considered a saint by the Catholic Church. You can read a complete explanation here. Had I known, we wouldn’t have chosen her as an All Saints’ Day saint. And if you’re costume hunting, I’d recommend choosing one of the ten thousand saints that ARE approved by the magisterium. 

Okay, so maybe Ophelia from Hamlet is nearly as obscure as St. Philomena, but I still think it would be cool to do a very disheveled post-drowning St. Philomena, who could double as Ophelia.

Anita, however, did not think that would be cool. So, we went with a tidier approach to the costume. 

But she didn’t seem to have any problem bringing the gruesome in her pageant clues:


Nana sewed her the tunic with St. Philomena’s traditional symbols on it. But she was Greek, so a Greek Goddess Costume
would work just fine for a Greek saint.


Knights and Ladies

Knights have a lot going for them in the way of costumes. Little boys think they’re awesome (and they’re right, of course), there are plenty to choose from: St. Nuno, St. George, St. Michael, St. Francis etc., AND store bought knight costumes
are very easy to come by.

We bought the St. George costume on Bobby on the right nearly five years ago at Costco for around ten bucks and it’s still going strong.

But anything worth doing is worth over-doing, so the next year Jack and Grandad fashioned a full suit of armour out of aluminum flashing for Jack’s St. Nuno costume.

And this year, Betty is going to wear it to be St. Joan of Arc!

But, usually, she wants to be a princess. Fortunately there are also plenty of princess saints. Nana sewed these dresses for her, but any store bought old-fashioned princess costume
would do just fine.


St. Olaf of Norway / Viking
icon written by Cody Chasen Burkett

You could use a whole store-bought Viking Costume. We bought the axe and helmet at a costume shop, and two yards of fake fur at the fabric store and cut a hole for Jack’s head. No sewing required! We found the rope in the garage. But by far the coolest part of this costume is that those are my mom’s actual snow boots from the seventies. That she actually wore. Ya know, just around. Take THAT Ugg boots.

Girls could be St. Sunnivia, with their own Viking Costume.


No photos of these yet, because they are what we’re working on for for this year. 
St. Lazarus / Old-School Zombie

For Gus . . . I ordered some zombie wound tatoos and we’re going to get some pale make-up and shred some clothes. Maybe for the saints pageant we’ll bring a stuffed dog. Eeew.


St. Maximilian Kolbe / Old-School Escaped Convict
For Bobby . . . I ordered some blue striped pajamas and some Harry Potter glasses. For the saint’s pageant we’ll add St. Maximilian Kolbe’s prisoner number and the red triangle. For Halloween, we’ll add some handcuffs and a plastic ball and chain. I wanted them to have a collar, so I went with Pajamas
(that I’ll have to take up, since they’re not a child’s size), but there are also Convict Costumes
that would work.
Junior Businessman / Blessed Miguel Pro

Just for the record, that’s not one of my kids. He looks quite dapper though. I think we’re going to dress Frankie in a suit and sweater vest, and he can be Blessed Miguel Pro. Bullet holes are optional.

So THAT is how we roll for the All Saints Day and Halloween. How about you?

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  1. Nella @McDonald's In Heaven

    "But All Hallows' Eve is just as much a Catholic holiday as All Saints Day and darned if I'll let a bunch of poorly catechized college girls wearing tube dresses and carrying a prop steal it from us. "


  2. Chris

    Love everything about this post! Absolutely fantastic…so well done.
    How fun, Kendra!

    Thanks ! Have a great Friday!

  3. Brienne

    I cannot stop laughing at the video of Anita! I can't believe she memorized all of that information at such a young age (actually, yes I can, I've seen her memorization skills when we were reading books). Hysterical! Also, the costumes are amazing!!!

  4. melody

    Clever costumes! I'm just not diggin' the St. John the Baptist thing though. My mental fine line is crossed with that one. We don't have to soft-peddle the difficulty of a life of faith or the sacrifices of the martyrs but I'm not convinced that sensationalizing the gore is appropriate. For example, nobody but a nasty pagan walks around on Halloween masquerading as the crucified Christ. And the saints, in martyrdom, were entering in to their passion, united with the passion of Christ. Do we win a victory over evil when we glorify the work of evil? I'm not convinced. We cannot defeat death by mocking it… we rise to victory only by united with Christ. And He did not mock it or have fun with it, but elevated love. Not warm fuzzy love. But hard core, crucified love. Halloween gore sanctified? Meh. I'm not buying it… but I'm interested in the discussion 🙂

    • Bonnie

      I'm with Kendra on this one. Kendra's son will be a gory head on a platter for Halloween and St. John the Baptist for their group's All Saints' party. I think the context is completely appropriate. Our church has an All Saints Halloween party and kids are encouraged to dress up and give a presentation on the saint they're representing. Look at the holy card picture – is St. Peregrine showing off his cancerous leg? Yes. Then be St. Peregrine for Halloween/ All Saints and show off your cancerous leg. PLUS, it really can be a great way to teach people about the saints and their Catholic faith.

    • melody

      Perhaps it's just the photo above that crosses my line. I can see St. John's head working at an All Saints' party. But that particular head with the make-up… probably not. I think the word I'm looking for is "reverence"… we've got to balance it. Cancerous leg? Fine. But there would probably be a line with that, too.

      I may be just sensitive her (likely) but do you know what I thought of when I saw St. John up above? The first thing I thought of was the Christians who were recently beheaded in Egypt. I saw the pictures and they flashed in my mind. As I flesh this out mentally, it seems that I am bothered when we make it too much of a game, a joke, a party. There is a certain irreverence that can creep in when we are not careful. We also run the risk of overshadowing the beautiful and terrifying small children. Can we find the fine line without making it a gore fest? Is there a risk of desensitizing our kids (who live in a safety bubble in this country) to this stuff?

      Great points, Bonnie… love the discussion!

    • Bonnie

      I do agree that gore for gore's sake is not good and that if little kids will be around then we should be careful. I noticed that the head on the platter was not one of Kendra's kids so we'll have to see what they actually do. (I'm keeping both eyes on you, Kendra!) I did think the headless St. Denis was really well done. Might it scare little kids? Maybe, but so can a crucifix or St. Denis' holy card. A toddler might not be old enough to understand martyrdom but I've found that my 4 and 5 year old are old enough to have a version of that discussion. I've also found that something like a beheaded St. John the Baptist costume would be a great doorway to a conversation about how Christians are *still* being beheaded.

      I don't want my kids to live in fear but at the same time I want them to be afraid – of satan, of evil people, of injustice. I'm actually grateful for the opportunities to have important conversations that are provided by something like an All Saints party and a creepy costume. But you are right – there is a balance that needs to be kept. Our faith can be fun but we also need to be reverent. Please God that we can hold that balance and honor Jesus Christ in all we do!

    • Ellen McCormick

      I think, as Melody inferred, it is a matter of sensitivity. I don't necessarily think Kendra is going to far, especially since her main focus is really trying to us a fun opportunity to teach them something about the faith, but at the same time, letting them get some scary "fun" out of it… I have to say, though, that personally, I understand and agree with Melody. I live in Iraq. I've lived in Jordan, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia previously. I've visited many of the other countries over here. Persecution of Christians is very real in many areas over here. Killing and senseless violence, of Christians and non Christians has also plagued much of the region for many centuries. I think when you're in the middle of the real issue (or, as in Melody's case, when you have it in the forefront of your mind), seeing it being imitated for "fun" can be distasteful, or even revolting… Because the violence and the martyrdom's are real, and the suffering they cause is the opposite of fun, games, costumes, etc. Again, that being said, I don't necessarily think that Kendra, and the many others that let their kids have fun that way are doing something wrong – they're just coming from a different perspective and different experience. I agree that gore can go too far, but I don't think any of the costumes Kendra made go too far – and I greatly admire her creativity! One more think I would say, though, just to add to the discussion, is that if the purpose is to let the kids have "scary" fun but relate it to the faith, this would be a great way of doing it. But if the purpose is really to focus on the saint, my preference would be to have my kids make a costume that is either of the saint during their life, or the saint glorified, not the moment of their death. Putting the question of gore aside, it's very unlikely that our kids will imitate the death of this, that or the other saint. They probably won't be beheaded like Nicholas or John the Baptist… But they can imitate the LIFE of the saints, and they will hopefully join them in glory… So I would focus my child more on St. Nicholas alive as a bishop, caring for others, etc. because he can imitate those virtues… talk about his death so they know martyrdom is real and can think about how they would deal with such a situation, but focus on the aspects of the saint's life that we can imitate… Just some more ideas!

    • Kendra

      Well, I finally have to weigh in here. Thank you so much for your perspective Ellen (and Melody and Bonnie too, of course). I do definitely tend towards wanting to celebrate all the parts of a saints' life, even the gruesome parts. After all, Jesus chose to keep his wounds even in his glorified body — and had people stick their fingers in them. Yikes!

      But you have a much closer window than I do on what actual Christian suffering and martyrdom is like. I'll do my best to find the middle ground on our St. John the Baptist costume, but I do love that painting. So maybe we will end up outside of some people's comfort zone.

      We'll see.

  5. Anna Ilona Mussmann

    These are great! I once went to a party as Lady Jane Gray, post beheading (I used a lampshade as a hat underneath my cloak– it held up the empty neck), but it seemed to make everyone nervous and no one would talk to me.

  6. Tamara

    I'm really digging the Blessed Miguel Pro. That is so doable even for last minute moms like me… who maybe didn't even remember about costumes and stuff til reading this post. 🙂

  7. Christine

    Wow – what creative ideas! I love the idea of making things do double-duty. Also, those boots from the 70s are so awful that I think I actually like them.

  8. Hafsa

    I love the St. Philomena costume idea and that you mentioned she might be just as obscure as Ophelia. We have a daughter named after the saint and only the real Catholics get it. I might just go with that costume for her. Plus I love the knight costume and it seems easy enough to just buy that one since I have no sewing skills to date.

  9. Mrs. Amen

    I love these ideas! thank you for sharing your creativity with me. I am a pretty new Catholic, converted in 2012, And need all the help I can get learning about our brothers and sisters in heaven. I also have a 4 year old who is looking for costume ideas and there are some real gems here for him. St. Philomena was my confirmation saint and I think my 14 year old daughter would make a lovely Philomena/Ophelia.

  10. Christie

    I love it! The neat thing about the Halloween costumes is that if you can't wiggle a saint out of them (but let's face it–there's a saint for everything!), then you can make him or her a departed soul for All Souls' Day in need of prayers!

  11. Son Mom

    Love the creative costumes (I'm seriously non-creative). And LOL at the 70s boots — we have a toddler kitty costume that is black and white mottled furry fabric that was from a dress that my mother wore in the 70s. We couldn't believe it when my mother told us where she go the fabric!

  12. Mary P

    Love these! I thought it would be awesome to have my daughter dress up as her patron saint (Lucy) by holding a platter with eyeballs on it. However, I think her Baptist preschool would call that "too scary" (they do not allow gore, witches, anything aggressive etc for Halloween). Maybe once she gets to Catholic school…

  13. Evan LeDoux

    I own that icon of St. Olaf you have there. Glad to see it's making it's way onto the internet (hopefully more icons of St. Olaf will be made from it in the future). If you would, it was painted/written by Cody Chasen Burkett, credit to him with the image 🙂

    • Kendra

      Done, thanks (but I couldn't find a website or anything for him, so I'm takingyour word for it!

    • Kendra

      Thank you! I updated the link to this year's version.

    • Kendra

      I was surprised to learn that that actually isn't the case. If you read the article I linked to, you'll see that in 1837, it was permitted for a local Mass to be celebrated in her honor on August 11th, but she was never actually canonized, and in 1961, that permission was specifically revoked and her feast day is not currently permitted to be celebrated, even locally.


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Hi! I’m Kendra.

For twenty years now, I’ve been using food, prayer, and conversation based around the liturgical calendar to share the lives of the saints and the beautiful truths and traditions of our Catholic faith. My own ten children, our friends and neighbors, and people just like you have been on this journey with me.

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