A MESSAGE FROM THE PRINCIPAL
THE REAL MEANING OF HALLOWEEN
Halloween is a popular secular holiday today. Countless kids, teenagers (and often adults) love dressing up as something on October 31st and going around the neighbourhood from house to house, door to door. The ever familiar “Trick or Treat!” is on everybody’s lips that night. Goblins and ghosts, witches and skeletons, knights and princesses; and many, many other costumes can be seen parading about the dark streets. The decorations of this night seem to reflect the same overall theme of frightening, creepy, scary and, at times, downright demonic. At the end of this night, everyone goes tramping home with their collections of goodies. And yet, although celebrated by many, few have remembered the origin of this holiday. Just what is Halloween all about? What is it “commemorating”?
Judging by the activities surrounding this holiday, one could easily be shocked to discover that this holiday is entirely Catholic in its origin. It is certainly surprising that a day when people go dressed up as ghosts and witches, serial killers and other immoral human being types should be rooted in a Catholic feast day. But the truth of the matter is that the holiday of Halloween is, in fact, the remains of a great Catholic “holy day”. Just how, then, did this Catholic feast become a secular holiday? And what was the feast of “Halloween”?
Well, the day that we now know as “Halloween” was originally called “All Hallows’ Eve”. This name may sound somewhat strange to you, but it is easily explained. The word hallow, somewhat out of practice in our English language, is still used in at least one place: The Our Father. As one says the prayer we find, “Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name …” In this context, we see that the word means basically “holy”, but it also seems to suggest a holiness that is revered and treated with honour, respect, and admiration. But what does “All Hallows’ Eve” mean? An eve is generally the name given to the day before another day that is very important. Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve are in all probability the most well-known and observed.
So we now know that the name “All Hallows’ Eve” must mean that the day following it must be the feast of “All Hallows”. Nowadays, though, we refer to it as “All Saints’ Day”. This day has been set aside by the Church to honour those Saints in Heaven who do not yet have a special feast day on the Church calendar. It is also intended to provide additional honour and veneration for those Saints that have a feast day on the calendar but were not honoured sufficiently on their day. A true Catholic Saint is like no other person on earth. These are those few who have grown spiritually to the point where they love God with their whole mind, heart, body, soul and all of their will. This requires heroic self-sacrifice which they endure for the love of God and the benefit of the Church and the salvation of souls. The feast recognizing all Saints has very early origins in the history of the Catholic Church.
So when we are honouring all of the Saints that are in Heaven, we are indeed honouring all of the “hallowed” people in Heaven. Suddenly it is no longer a mystery why the day previous is called “All Hallows’ Eve”.
But why did people commemorate the day before? Eves, as these “days before” are called, were actually a very important part of the upcoming feast. On eves, the Catholic faithful would fast (as the eve indicated), go to Confession, and otherwise prepare their souls for the feast the next day. In fact, two feasts were so important for us Catholics to prepare for, that the Church extended these “eves” to last a longer amount of time. These “eves” are Advent and Lent, the two preparatory periods before two of the greatest feasts of the Church, Christmas and Easter. Christmas actually has its own eve in addition to Advent; Easter doesn’t, though, because it is preceded by Holy Week. Understanding now that eves were special preparation days before great feast days, we see that All Saints’ Day is a fairly important feast day in the Church.
But how did All Hallows’ Eve, a feast day of the Church, become Halloween, a secular holiday that basically commemorates all that is frightening, and in a sense all that is supernatural yet unheavenly? Well, as society drifted farther and farther away from Catholicism, people wanted less and less to remember things that they liked as having come from their Mother the Church. People enjoyed observing these days, but did not like them being attached to the Roman Catholic faith. Feasts like Christmas, Easter, St. Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and All Hallows’ Eve are celebrated the world over yes, but all in a very secular way. Christmas has become the day when people get presents from Santa Claus, Easter’s the day when the “Easter Bunny” gives us chocolates and candies. Saint is omitted from the title of “St. Valentine’s Day” as it becomes a day to give those you love a card and some candy. And while St. Patrick’s Day is still commemorated with “Saint” in the title, it is more a celebration of Ireland and the Irish people than the amazing fidelity that the Irish had for their Catholic Faith during their persecutions from the Protestant English. And All Hallows’ Eve, the day before we remember all of the Saints in Heaven, has become the secular holiday of Halloween, a day to go around dressed up as everything but a Catholic Saint while we collect candy to the offer of “Trick or Treat”!
Prayer for All Saints Day
We give you thanks, O God, for all the saints who ever worshiped you
Whether in brush arbors or cathedrals,
Weathered wooden churches or crumbling cement meeting houses
Where your name was lifted and adored.
We give you thanks, O God, for hands lifted in praise:
Manicured hands and hands stained with grease or soil,
Strong hands and those gnarled with age
Used as wave offerings across the land.
We thank you, God, for hardworking saints;
Whether hard-hatted or steel-booted,
Head ragged or aproned,
Blue-collared or three-piece-suited
They left their mark on the earth for you, for us, for our children to come.
Thank you, God, for the tremendous sacrifices made by those who have gone before us.
Bless the memories of your saints, God.
May we learn how to walk wisely from their examples of faith, dedication, worship, and love.
DIGITAL SOCIAL SKILLS
This week, I met with Year 9 and their parents as we gradually phase in a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) environment. One cannot but ponder the enormous advantages and the negative uses of the web environment. I include a great article from Catherine Gerhart, who has some sound advice on how we can work with students to develop digital social skills.
Just as we teach children social skills for real life, there are important social skills for the digital world. As they travel through new social situations, including online, it is imperative that parents teach children to follow a few basic rules.
The internet is a portal into some of the most amazing places, and just like any new place we visit, we are likely to make a few social stumbles. If travelling the world, every culture you visit would have its own social nuances that you are likely to have to work your way around. It would be easy to misunderstand what others say or take offence to something that was not intended.
Young people, at the best of times, are still learning social rules and developing their critical thinking skills around collective interactions. Well-meaning personalities can make all kinds of mistakes when they enter this new online culture.
As parents we want to do whatever it takes to minimise the mistakes our children make online. Netiquette is a set of general guidelines for cyberspace behaviour. Here are some basic principles parents can use to help children solve their own ‘netiquette’ dilemmas.
Be kind Remember the human behind every screen. Every user is an independent person with individual thoughts and feelings. It can be easy to misunderstand another person’s intentions or even be rude to others when you are not interacting with them in person and given the grace of viewing facial expressions and emotions. Perhaps the best mantra we can go back to as parents is the golden rule of “Treat others how you would like to be treated.” Developing empathy and trying to see that comment, post or photo from many different perspectives takes practice. How would you feel if someone said that to you? Treating others with respect is paramount. Yes, there may be times when you might have to stick up for yourself, however it needs to be done in a responsible and respectful way.
If you wouldn’t do it there, don’t do it here Social standards apply to both online and offline spaces, and standards of online behaviour should be consistent with real life expectations. As parents we put many rules and expectations in place as to how we expect our children to behave in a public place. I know I expect my children to show respect, use their manners, help others out, practice kind language, etc. Online is the biggest public place your child will ever find themselves, which is all the more reason to work on exceeding those standards of behaviour.
Develop their internal filter Parents may feel that they have some control over their child’s use of technology and many use programs and apps that allow for monitoring and filtering content. Despite the best intentions, there are times when filters are re-set, not set up correctly or not even in place – for example when your child goes to their friend’s house, gets online and no safety mechanisms have been established. What this means is that we need to help our children develop their internal filter, as this is the one they will always have and may need to rely on. Research is clear that the best way to teach morals and ethics is through example.
Teach them to do the right thing Parents can nurture moral principles that will guide their children to stand up for their beliefs and act right even without us. Know what you stand for so that your child knows. Parents with clearly identified moral convictions are more likely to raise children that do the right thing. Pursue opportunities to look for moral issues and talk about them as they come up: from TV shows and news events to situations at home, school, and friends. Discuss with your child how you feel about the issue and why.
Be upstanding There will be times online when your child will have to be brave and stand up for others, when they will have to go against social pressure to do what is right. When someone they know is being deliberately upset or harassed by another person, expect your child to move from bystander to upstander, because this is the right thing to do. In most cases many people contribute to the cyberbullying. Many know about the situation, but choose not to get involved. Encourage your child to stand up, speak up and act up against online abuse. They can support the target by letting them know they are there and provide empathy. Encourage your child to report what is happening to a trusted adult; someone who they believe will listen and has the skills, desire, and authority to help.
Using the THINK rule can go a long way in practicing digital social skills. It is a checklist of questions that children must go through before they post or comment online. \
Is it True?
Is it Helpful?
Is it Inspiring?
Is it Necessary?
Is it Kind? Created to emphasise care online, it applies to real world engagement as well.
Technology is moving forward quickly, and it continues to evolve at an unprecedented pace. Taking the time to impart digital social skills at an early age is vital for our children as they move from playground friends to social media and gaming friendships.
These simple rules apply all along the developmental spectrum. They also give us a clear understanding of what we can do as parents, to help our children manage a positive digital reputation.
(by Catherine Gerhart, a dedicated advocate of critical thinking skills in children and young people. As a parent of school aged children she understands the commitments and challenges parents face ensuring they provide the right information to young people in a way that empowers them to develop their personal and social capabilities. Catherine is a certified training provider through the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner)
Tips for parents
- Practice makes perfect – keep reinforcing positive digital social skills and a strong foundation will be laid
- Coach about privacy in a public place
- Follow the social code of good people
- Manners are necessary
- Complimentary conduct is proper
- We are free to follow group rules. We are not free to hurt others
- Encourage the THINK rules
PARENTS AND FRIENDS NEWS
I wanted to thank the current P & F executive for their work this year: Marijana Skoflic, Sonia Bennett and Kelly Efremidis. At the last meeting, an AGM was held and we have had a change in office bearers for 2017: Les Salisbury (President), Sonia Bennett (Treasurer) and Kelly Efremidis (Secretary). My special thanks to the 2017 team for accepting their nominations and joining us in the work of making Bethany the best it can be!
“Girls can do anything.
Bethany girls can do everything!*
(*except divide by zero)”