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Philippine parishes stage Halloween countermeasures

Saint parades seek to turn Catholics away from ghouls, ghosts and a 'celebration of death'

Jun N. Aguirre, Aklan

Jun N. Aguirre, Aklan

Updated: November 01, 2019 05:25 AM GMT
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Philippine parishes stage Halloween countermeasures

Young people take part in a parade of saints in the town of New Washington in the central Philippines to counter secular Halloween practices. (Photo by Jun Aguirre)

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Young people in New Washington in the central Philippines held what they described as a "parade of saints" on Oct. 31 to counter “unholy” Halloween traditions in their communities.

It saw young people in various costumes portraying their favorite saints in a religious procession around town.

Father Francis Bolivar, parish priest at the Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish, said the event aimed "to dispel myths during Halloween wherein people wear scary costumes."

"The essence of the [All Souls' Day] tradition is to remember our dear departed and the saints on All Saints' Day," said the priest.

After the parade, the "saints" are called to the front for their virtues to be enumerated.

The parade of saints has spread to dioceses around the country in recent years.

In the central Philippine province of Cebu, Father Mhar Balili said the parade is a break from the usual ghoul and ghost activities held in shopping malls and gated communities.

"As Catholics, we have to promote the saints, not the forces of evil," he said.

Father Balili said the parade is meant to remind people of the "reality of heaven" and the calling for everyone to be holy and saintly.

In Pampanga province in the north, a parade of saints was also held in a bid to exorcise All Saints' Day of spooky Halloween practices.

The Catholic Church’s liturgical calendar marks Nov. 1 as the Solemnity of All Saints.

Through the years, All Saints' Day Eve has been known as "All Hallow’s Eve" or Halloween, from the word "hallow," which means "holy." The suffix "een" is supposed to be an abbreviation of "evening."

The celebration refers to the Eve of All Hallows, the night before the Christian holy day that honors saintly people of the past.

Secular influence, however, took away the "holy" in Halloween through fancy dress parties where people wear costumes to look like monsters, ghouls and other evil entities.

The practice of dressing up like creatures of the night and demons reportedly has pagan origins.

In recent years, church leaders have encouraged parents to dress their children "like saints and not like characters from the underworld" to create a deeper awareness about the lives of saints.

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, chairman of the Commission on the Laity, said Halloween is not a Christian celebration but a "celebration of death." He said All Souls' Day and All Saints’ Day are "celebrations of life."

He said when people visit their dearly departed during these days, they say prayers, offer flowers, light candles and bring food, which are all signs of life.

"Let us go to the cemeteries to remember and pray for our departed," said the prelate. He said the parade of saints is a reclaiming of the eve of All Saints' Day for Christ.

"It really belongs to Christ because it is the beginning of All Saints’ Day, the feast of all who have washed their robes with the Blood of the Lamb," Bishop Pabillo said.

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