Who are Your Heroes?
Kids love to dress up in order to test out a different persona. Do we need to deny them this once-a-year community opportunity, because Halloween has become a time of personifying darkness?
Historically, Halloween is connected with pagan harvest festivals and it is now claimed by witches. But the word itself belongs to the “good guys.” It is the Eve of All Saints Day. On this series of days–All Hallows Eve, All Saints Day and All Souls Day–we have a chance to bring light into the darkness of our world.
This time of festivities can and should be re-claimed as an opportunity to embrace our heroes!
I tell my children this every year and ask them to identify saints, literary figures or historical characters. They can impersonate the good guys who overcome the darkness. This gives them the opportunity to research about virtuous people who are worthy of our attempts to “become like them.”
When my kids were attending the local public elementary school, I went to school to help out with the Halloween parties…dressed as a saint! I remember one year, I was hurrying down the hall, dressed in a black robe and nun’s veil. I was St. Margaret Mary Alacoque who died in 1690. She received the vision of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
A teacher called me to a halt.
I stopped in my tracks. Was she going to tell me I couldn’t come to school as a religious figure? Was I not welcome at this secular institution, dressed this way?
She said, “You remind me of my childhood. The nuns taught me all through high school back in North Dakota. Thanks for bringing back that memory.” I was so relieved!
As I proceeded to the classroom, other staff members nodded in my direction. Some seemed confused about whether they should address me as “Sister” or whether they should laugh that I was in such a costume. I didn’t care. I was on a mission to tell kids, “Be a hero. Don’t follow the crowd.”
Kids who knew me, because I teach Sunday School (religious formation), acted guilty when they saw me coming. Good. I was disappointed to see some of them dressed as blood dripping death-like figures. But I was glad to see there were angels too.
The desire to dress up and explore a different way of being is strong in us. What if we could truly be someone else for a short time? How would that feel? I’d have to say—when I was Sr. Margaret Mary for a day, I felt more courageous than otherwise!
When Brigit was in third grade she dressed up as Barbara Woodhouse, who had a TV show back in the 1980s about “talking to animals.” Woodhouse grew up in the 1920s, riding on cows when she didn’t have horses. So Brigit wore an antique dress, an antique hat and brought along her stick horse. Needless-to-say she wasn’t a recognizable character and that made her a little nervous. But she had studied her character and was ready to give a little speech, “My name is Barbara Woodhouse and I talk to animals” she began. It was a memorable experience.
When her brother Peter was in fourth grade, he went to school as King Arthur. The first Narnia movie was just about to be released at that time. So his costume also fit perfectly as King Peter. Subtly it was a way to call forth the C.S. Lewis parable of the lion, who represents Jesus, and the leader he appointed for his Church.
Halloween can be a time to evangelize. Let’s take this month to think about heroes! We can dispel the darkness with our light.
–Judith Costello. Judith is the mother of two kids. She and her family live on a small farm they call “Sagging Acres” in rural New Mexico. Judith writes for national and regional magazines. She is a catechist, artist and a Secular Carmelite (OCDS).