Monday, October 6, 2014

The Fall Festival Problem

So modern man
one day--any day--gets up and says, "Let's celebrate!" And without any warrant, he decrees that his town from now on will have a festival on, let's say, August 18th; and as he can dance and eat and drink on any day between January 1st and December 31st, the most he will experience is "a good time." But he will never be able to "celebrate a feast."
(From Around The Year With The Trapp Family by Maria Augusts Trapp )

I love fall. And I love the idea of visiting a cider mill (like I did once in Michigan) or heading to an apple orchard (like we did in northern California), or even the occasional pumpkin patch with the big corn maze (well, maybe not the maze, that included lots of tears). 

However, I have become increasingly saddened at the Fall Festivals at Saint So-and-So's that dominate the local events calendars. 

Why are Catholic parishes always putting all of their celebration momentum into a fall festival complete with pumpkins, scarecrows and even haunted houses (I once helped build one of those at my parish festival some 30 {gasp!} years ago!)...especially when we have the perfect fall FEAST to celebrate?

Why are we not having huge All Saint's Day celebrations? We could still have games and rides and raffles and raise money. We would just do that with a focus on the saints. 

You see, as Catholics we have such a great heritage of celebration and yet we seem to forget this when everyday parish life sets in. 
Nobody could stand a Thanksgiving Day dinner every day of the year. There
can only be mountains if there are also valleys....that wonderful, eternal rhythm of high and low tide that makes up the year of the Church: times of waiting alternate with times of fulfillment, the lean weeks of Lent with the feasts of Easter and Pentecost, times of mourning with seasons of rejoicing. Modern man lost track of this.
(From Around The Year With The Trapp Family by Maria Augusts Trapp )

I did a little Google search and found a couple of parishes who have had an All Saint's Day Fall Festival in the past, but I couldn't tell how focused on the Faith it was. To be honest, I can't recall even one of the many parishes I have attended making a big deal of their patron saint's feast day, or of their patronage at all. I can remember doing some things at one of the parish Catholic schools where I worked, but even then, it was downplayed. The patrons were martyrs and the teachers were concerned that the stories (even explaining the reason for the red uniforms) was too gruesome to mention to the kids. 

Our current parish mentions their patron at the end of every homily and often at the end of daily Mass, which is great! But there was very little (if anything) done to celebrate his feast day. Yet, they have a big Fall Festival which occupies lots of time and energy from parishioners and from the school. I am sure it brings in money as well. Yet I still don't understand, outside of the money, what is the point? 

It would be so easy to transform the Fall Festival into and All Saint's Day Festival. Back in the day, when I worked at the Spiritus Sanctus Academy in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the school had an All Saint's Day festival. It was held in the school gym and the games all had clever saint names and themes like St. Peter's Fishing Pond, or St. Francis of Assisi Shooting Gallery (just kidding...maybe it should be St. Francis's Petting Zoo?), and the kids dressed as their patron saints, and candy was the prize at most of the games. There was usually a parade and some prizes for the best costumes. 

All of those things could happen at a parish All Saint's Day celebration. The day could start early with the St. Teresa of Avila Mud Run. A special Mass including the Litany of the Saints could be followed by St. Matthew's Silver Dollar Pancake breakfast. 

Then the Festival would begin. In addition to the games (like St. Bernadette's Sweeping Contest or St. Philomena's Dunk Tank), just think of all the great ethnic food that could be served thoughout the day in the name of various saints! St. Stanislaus' Kielbasa, St. Anthony's Calzones, St Andrew Kim's Korean BBQ, St. Joan of Arc's Stakehouse (yes, I meant to spell it that way), St. Lawrence's Grill for hotdogs and hamburgers. And each booth could have a brief explanation of the connection to the saint, especially for the less obvious ones. 

Of course, there will have to be a grand procession at some point. And the church could be open all day and maybe special images of the saints placed around the edges, especially if it does not already have many of these. 

Actually, you it doesn't need to be fall to have a proper parish-wide feast! If the parish opts for a fair during some other season, why not make it honor of their patron!

See how easy that was? I can't be the only one who has thought of this. Sure, it can get corny, but that is a fall thing too! 

Why should the St. Joe's Parish Fall Festival look just the same as the one at the local public elementary school? 

Why opt for "a good time" when you can have a FEAST?

What do you think? Does your parish do anything like this? 


  1. Carol, this sounds wonderful! Want to come help me organize it for our parish? ;)
    We had an All Saint's Party like this in our FSSP parish in Georgia. My favorite thing: the kids earned a stamp for each activity, and with a complete card they earned a "purchase" at the St. Nicholas table for them to get religious Christmas gifts to give. Moms would collect religious items they'd see at discounts through out the year.

  2. Love the St. Nicholas Table idea! Unfortunately, while I am an idea machine, I am an organizing failure. ;)