Working Together to Renew Halloween
By Fr. Michael Callea, MIC
"My son pouted the rest of the night," a mother confided to me. She had decided to leave our All Hallows Eve Party early to take him trick-or-treating through their neighborhood. As it turned out, he didn't want to miss all the fun going on at our Marian parish in Yorkville, Ill., where I am assigned with another Marian priest and, thankfully, plenty of dedicated Marian Helpers. Recently, I had a chance to talk with one of them, Tammy Hanna, who has assisted me over the past three years with a special project to renew Halloween.
Fr. Michael: You have a great love for God and for teaching youngsters. How did this project get started?
Tammy: From my experience of Vacation Bible School, I saw that children love to learn about the saints. What better day is there to teach them about the saints than on Nov. 1st (All Saints Day)? However, there was a bit of a problem: people's preoccupation with the night before, Halloween, and the way it tends to be celebrated in today's culture, with elements that are very dark, even anti-Christian.
Fr. Michael: Yes, for that reason, many would simply reject the celebration of Halloween altogether. But since it is actually a holy day rooted in our Christian heritage, it seemed better to reclaim it rather than abandon it to our increasingly irreligious culture. After all, Halloween derives from "Hallows Eve," that is, the eve of the Hallows, or the Holy Ones — that is, "All the Saints."
Tammy: Of course, it's an immense challenge for us because, let's face it, Halloween can be a lot of fun, with all the parties, dressing-up in costumes, spooky houses, trick-or-treating, and candy!
Fr. Michael: We encourage the children to dress up not as monsters or ghouls but as their favorite saints, angels, or holy souls (such as ballerinas, firefighters, or astronauts). They play many games such as "Saint Isidore the Farmer" pumpkin bowling or the "Twelve Apostles, Fishers of Men" fishing game. The prizes? Candy, of course!
Tammy: On the stage, there are musical performances and skits, including St. John Bosco's magic show and a game show entitled, "Who Wants to Be a Saint?"
Fr. Michael: As far as spookiness goes, every year we have an "Epic Battle" between good and evil complete with devils and pitchforks. (Good always wins.) Last year, we had the re-enactment of the "catacombs," a dark maze featuring skeletons and other surprises in which the kids learned about the heroic witness of the early Christians.
Tammy: One year, we even had Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Werewolf! They each dramatically told the story of their wicked lives and why they wouldn't be joining the kids in the "Hall of Saints" to see God and the "Most Beautiful Woman in the World."
Fr. Michael: I love working with you and the host of volunteers from our two parishes, like those who are positioned at various outside trick-or-treating stations. Each one has a pumpkin carved with a different cross, the meaning of which is explained when children approach for candy.
Tammy: The children are encouraged to say, "Praised be Jesus Christ." In response, they hear, "Now and forever" and get lots of candy! So all these things come together to make our celebration of All Hallows Eve as fun as other celebrations of Halloween.
Fr. Michael: Together, we really are transforming Halloween. Thanks be to God!
Fr. Michael Callea, MIC, is parochial vicar at St. Patrick Parish in Yorkville, Ill. He has been with the Marians since 1994 and was ordained a priest in 2002.
Tammy Hanna, a member of St. Mary Parish in Plano, Ill., and a longtime Marian Helper, enjoys assisting with the All Hallows Eve Party at St. Patrick Parish.