When I was a kid, my cousins and I came up with a tradition of celebrating Halloween every October 31st. We would create our own costumes from old clothes or whatever we could find, make or improvise masks or wigs and put on scary make up. We would prepare some snacks, hold the party in any of our houses and dance to the tune of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”. We did that until we were in our twenties and we invited other friends to join us. I remember dressing up as Wednesday Addams one time. We were really into it and we had so much fun! The weird thing was that we were already serving in the church during that time and even held that in one of the rooms in the parish.
We usually spent November 1st going to the cemetery, year after year. When we got home, we would watch scary documentaries or movies on TV. It was bonding time with my cousins as we screamed at the top of our lungs amidst giggles while watching. Those were fond memories though.
When we were already moms and dads, my cousins and I resumed this tradition which had stopped for a while. This time, we excitedly prepared scary costumes for our kids.
On another occasion, when I was already a teacher, I remember even borrowing my grandmother’s laced 50th wedding gown which she indulgently allowed me to. I found a laced cloth from my old debut gown that I could use as my veil to appear like a ghost bride or something. In other schools were I worked, wearing scary costumes was discouraged because it causes fear among kids and the administrators consider it a way to glorify evil – to which I didn’t agree then. I thought it was just for fun and there was nothing wrong with that.
But years went on, and as we learned more and more about the teachings of the Church and about how demons work, we realized that this was, in fact, a way to glorify evil and we didn’t want our children to think that that was fun. Instead of them knowing more about saints, and having saints as their model for virtuous character, they candidly played the roles of the evil ones. Come to think of it, we didn’t even know what the word “Halloween” meant then and didn’t bother finding out. We had associated it with something scary (that was how it was projected on TV), whereas in fact, it didn’t resemble anything like that at all. This word actually means Saints’ Eve or Evening (see Wikipedia) so we should actually be celebrating the eve of the holy ones, not the gory ones. Those wasted years when we should have been watching and reading stories about saints!
Unfortunately, these things were not really being discussed much during those days, whether in church, in school or at home. We read about some saints in school. But I guess parents have the primary responsibility to teach these to their children. Anyway, it is great that parishes now often come up with activities such as parades of saints or costume parties where children are dressed as saints. Our children get to participate in those. And along with this, we have learned the importance of hearing mass on November 1st.
It is also during the Halloween that there are tons of scary movies about ghosts or common superstitious beliefs, which would often be blockbusters, mind you. I watched a lot of them in the past. These movies can actually be harmful as they can deposit fear to the subconscious, making the psyche open and vulnerable to the evil one.
Sadly, many horror films, fictitious as they are meant to be, can actually mislead or misinform people. For instance, in most cases, when a character is possessed (sinasapian or sinasaniban in Filipino), the person is brought to an albularyo or faith healer, which is quite common in the Philippines. Sometimes, when the character has been cursed or a spell has been cast upon him by a witch, the movie often ends up as if evil has won and there is no hope in healing the person. Why not show the character being brought to a priest or an exorcist who, in reality, through the power of our Lord Jesus, can actually heal him? There are other TV shows which, in many ways, up to now, promote going to occult practitioners, feng shui experts, spirit questors, clairvoyant, etc. (despite warnings from exorcists) by showing documentaries or airing series about such, not usually explaining the danger of doing so but rather, treating them as normal and acceptable. It is no wonder that up to now, many elderly people still hold on to such beliefs, and having passed on these beliefs to their children, these beliefs still persist up to this very day.
In my opinion, the entertainment industry has a huge responsibility in this matter too and should also take into consideration the possible good and harm it can cause (not just to children but also to adults) and not do a project merely to entertain. Entertainment is a powerful tool to spread goodness and inspiration. Doesn’t anyone want to make films about saints? Or about the Bible? Call me naïve or crazy but I think it’s possible for truly creative people to come up with interesting and entertaining projects on these topics.
As parents, we have a bigger responsibility in being selective of what our children read and watch and be equipped to explain to our children whether the contents are good or not, correct or wrong. In fact, there are less and less quality movies to watch on cable these days and I recently had to lock a lot of the channels. My husband would comment that there’s hardly anything to watch with most of the channels locked. I am easily tempted to watch when there’s a scary film showing, as if I have been hypnotized (that bad) but it’s awful for kids. We try to avoid more these days. We unlock when we have to watch the news, sports, hear online mass and when there are good movies to watch on cable like Anne of Green Gables, etc or watch documentaries or movies of saints from https://formed.org/ or Youtube. There had been times when we watched scary or action films and inasmuch as I did enjoy them (I was used to watching them as a kid), it doesn’t mean they are all good – since they are mostly gory, violent or often have swearing here and there. And you know how children are, these scenes and words register in their minds so effortlessly.
Young people are more in danger now not just from books and movies but also with occult practitioners widely exposed on social media and these people even have pages to follow or groups where one can join or there are various demonic apps to install.
As the cases of demonic possession and the like increase, I believe that the Church has become more aware and vigilant in informing people about these things. The ministry of exorcism has grown and more exorcists are actually giving talks in various places in our country for the past couple of years to inform Catholics about the faith and warning them to avoid activities that may cause an opening for us to be harmed by the evil one like spirit of the glass, Ouija board, consulting faith healers (occult practitioners) etc. I was already a mother when I learned that going to faith healers was against the teachings of the church, thus, my family and I had been exposed to its dangers in the past. Attending talks on these and reading books on exorcism such as those of Father Jose Syquia have been quite helpful in enlightening me about the matter.
Bottom line is, times are changing, but old beliefs persist and even worsen in more ways than before. We have to be more aware of the teachings of the Church, know the Bible and teach them to our children more diligently and by God’s Grace, help them navigate this dark world (no exaggeration) without getting lost, and still find their way home to the Light of Christ.
To God be the Glory!