Youths from St. Mary Parish in Riverside explore Halloween’s history at party


By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

RIVERSIDE — The parish hall at St. Mary’s transformed into a Halloween hangout for young Catholics in costume on Oct. 25.
A smiling, stuffed ghost greeted guests at the foot of the staircase, which was covered with decorative cobwebs and spiders. The tables were adorned with black and orange centerpieces. Pumpkin decorations filled the hall.

Deacon Derick Cranston
Youths from St. Mary Parish in Riverside pose for a picture during the parish’s Halloween party on Oct. 25.

Young guests and their parents shared a meal of hot dogs, chips, baked beans, cookies and pumpkin punch. They could also try their luck at a variety of Halloween-themed activities, including a spider maze, Halloween bingo, spider spat, pin the nose on the pumpkin and guess how many Halloween items are in the jar.

About 45 people attended the party, said Deacon Derick Cranston, the parish’s pastoral associate and director of faith formation. To put Halloween into perspective for the young Catholics, he offered a little history on the holiday. “What we now call Halloween originally began as a Christian celebration. The word ‘Halloween’ comes from a Scottish term, ‘hallows eve’ which meant ‘holy evening.’” He said that Hallow’s Eve was celebrated the evening before the feast of All Saints which is followed by the feast of All Souls.


He noted that some people believe that Halloween originated from a pagan celebration practiced by the ancient Celts. “While it is true that the ancient Celts of the British Isles celebrated a harvest festival around Oct. 31 that honored the dead, the church did not try to ‘Christianize’ this festival and adapt its customs. As a matter of fact, All Saints Day was originally celebrated on May 13! In the 8th century A.D., Pope Gregory III moved it to Nov. 1, which was the dedication day of All Saints Chapel at St. Peter’s in Rome. The Romans and Pope Gregory III would have had very little knowledge, if any, of pagan celebrations as far away as the British Isles.”

As a way to tie in the Halloween party with the feast days of All Saints and All Souls, the children in Riverside brought photographs of deceased loved ones. Deacon Cranston offered a blessing to those loved ones.


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