Parents shun commercial side, teach kids real meaning of holy days

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MANILA, Nov. 1, 2012—Though she was much like others as a child – not fully knowing the significance of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day – Mara Esguerra has decided on a trick-or-treat-free childhood for her own children as this tradition doesn’t help anyone appreciate the meaning of the holy days.

“We never did Trick or Treating [when I was a child] and I would like my kids to do the same. I explain to them that Trick or Treat is a pagan, commercial celebration. It’s the All Saints Day and All Souls Day that matters,” said the mother of four whose ages range from 2 to 7 years.

Esguerra said that she together with her husband and children go to mass, offer prayers for the dead loved ones, and make a candle offering to mark All Saints’ Day, “not necessarily at the cemetery. [And] going to the cemetery is also something one can do on Nov 2, not Nov 1,” she added, noting the customary trip to memorial parks done by many Filipino families on the first day of the month even though the feast dedicated to honoring the dear departed falls on November 2.

The chemist admitted her ignorance as a child of the whole matter of November 1 and November 2 as big feast days in the Christian calendar.

“When I was younger I didn’t know what November 1 or November 2 was. All I knew was that November 1 was the day when we went to the cemetery to bring flowers and candles for my lolo and lola‘s graves. Then we would say a prayer or two. That was it,” she recalled.

Devotion to the saints for Esguerra, however, are a year-round thing, going beyond the one day designated for honoring all the holy men and women in heaven. She counts as her most favored ones the Blessed Mother, St. Joseph, and St. Josemaria Escriva.

“Mama Mary because she is my role model and my ‘mother’ when I feel that I’m not loved,” she explained.

“St. Joseph, who I go to for my husband’s concerns and to intercede or to protect my family during difficult times. And St. Josemaria who showed me the path to holiness through my vocation [to Opus Dei].”

Looking up to the saints as real people

In the United States, where “All Saints’ parties” – and sometimes parades – have become more common among Catholic communities and some schools in recent years, homeschooling mom Stef Patag has been among the growing number of parents who encourage their kids to take part in the celebration with much enthusiasm, aside from going to Mass. This year, however, is a different case, she said, since other commitments have taken up a huge chunk of her time. Hence, there was hardly any time for fashioning costumes for her brood of five – or for even thinking of which saintly figures to emulate for the celebration by way of costumes.

Patag knows what she wants her children to take to heart when learning about the holy men and women that the Church has lifted up to the altars.

“It’s a great time for them to get reacquainted with the saints if they fell out of practice, especially since so many of the saints committed themselves to Christ at an early age. Kids these days need heroes to look up to, people who were ordinary like them but lived extraordinary lives, because of their faith. You can’t get any more real than that,” the mother explained.

“Especially the ones who died for their faith, kids can’t help but look at that and say, ‘Will I be able to do that? And the answer is yes, because these were mortals with weaknesses just like them. But they were able to overcome.” (CBCP for Life)

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