Tag Archives: church


“So basically, aguinalduhan is a gathering we do in our church every year on the last Sunday before Christmas where all of the adults go into, like, a parking lot and bring bulk snacks and toys and stuff like from Costco… Like those 28-pack chips or candy boxes.  They all sit in a big circle with their big packages of food and snacks.  Then the kids all line up outside the circle in order from youngest to oldest until you’re like 20 years old and it’s like a long line of trick or treaters that get older as you go… the funniest part is that we’ll usually bully our oldest cousins out of the line once they get to be around 22 or 23 because at that point, like, they’re just being greedy.  But then what ends up happening is that they have a kid a couple years later and get to go to the front of the line when their kid is the youngest out of all of us.”

Background: The informant is a 19-year old college student who was raised a Christian in a church that was led and run by his extended family members.

Context: This tradition was shared with me over FaceTime.

I experienced aguinalduhan annually with the informant when we were children, and it was a cyclical tradition that marked the end of another year.  Participants in the tradition slowly made their way to the back of the line as new lives began entering through the front.  As an adult, many of our older cousins are now the ones bringing the goodies (like Oreo snack packs, fruit snacks, Caprisuns) to hand out to all of the younger cousins.

According to limited information available about the idea of “Aguinaldohan” online, our church’s tradition stemmed from a custom named after the first President of the Philippines, Emilio Aguinaldo, where people gave back to the needy during Christmastime.  This version is definitely more sanitized and family-friendly, and serves as a way for everyone to get together and see how we’ve grown throughout the years.

The Ghost on the Phone

Main Performance:

The M family lives in Lemont, Illinois. An old industrial town south of Chicago, Lemont is proud – almost deliberate – about their town’s culture and influence in Chicago. The town is fundamental to Chicago, one of the world’s largest economic metropolises. Lemont is the convergence of several key waterways – including the canal that reversed the flow of the Illinois River, sending waste south, instead of north, towards the city’s water supply. Lemont is also home to the oldest parish in Chicago – St. James at Sag Bridge. The same hilltop used by French explorers, is home to the 1825 chapel and one of the most haunted areas of Chicagoland.

Mrs. M is the organist at St. James. Around 10 years ago, after finishing playing music for Christmas Eve Mass, Mrs. M locked up the church, went down the hill, locked the campus gate and went home – but forgetting her phone. When she got home and realized her mistake she had her oldest two daughters call the phone to check it wasn’t lost in the car. Instead, a male voice answered the call and said, “Hello, this is Alex.” Now the odd thing is that the phone was found the next morning, where it was left – in the organ loft of the church. Mrs. M was the last person in the church and the one who locked the gate. No ushers, volunteers, clergymen, or anyone with any considerable amount of access to the church and campus is named Alex. What are the odds an outsider broke into the church, was up in the organ loft and answered the phone – while committing a crime – much less leave the phone where it usually lies. The afterlife isn’t as far away as people believe.


The informant, MK, is one of my close friends from highschool who had heard this story from his wife’s family and their encounter with local ghosts in their neighborhood, Mrs. M being his mother-in-law and the M family being his in-laws. While he has undoubtedly heard this story from them before, he took the liberty of interviewing his in-laws again in-depth to provide this story. Being Catholic, the realm of spirits, souls, and ghosts would not stray too far from his world views.


Looking to expand my collection’s scope, I contacted my friends from highschool through Facebook and asked if he had any he could share with me. By coincidence I contacted him in the middle of his trip to visit some of his in-laws and he promised to deliver some of the ghost stories he had previously heard from his in-laws.

My Thoughts:

It’s a memorate like this that usually freaks me out the most. Doing some more research on the area explains the myriad of ghost stories originating from a fictional published story involving a ghost haunting the church, as well as the amount of cemeteries around the area, providing that liminal space between life and death for these stories to flourish. Apparently the published stories on the ghosts of Lemont have become a community-wide belief so the ghosts, fictional or real as Mrs. M’s story suggests, only adds to the collective identity of the town and their local ghosts. While the name of the ghost in the published story is not known to me, the fact that this one actually has a name and supposedly spoke on the phone only adds to the level of personal investment that can go a long way into a believable tale. The prospect that it was instead a random person staking out in the middle of the night at church on that particular occasion feels even creepier than a ghost.

Three Wishes In a New Church


MW: “When I was a little girl, I went to catholic grammar in Brooklyn. Every year around Easter time we would have to go to 7 different churches. It was our own local pilgrimage. One year, a nun told me that when you walk into a new church, you get three wishes.”


MW explained that these wishes are not prayers. The people are not asking God to intercede on their behalf. Instead, it is binding between you and God as you enter a new place. The wish is just a favor God is granting a person for entering His house – like a good host giving a gift to his visitors. MW explained that she has continued this far beyond her grammar school years and has even gotten her three wishes at the Vatican in Rome.

My Interpretation:

I find it very interesting that the tradition of visiting different churches eventually yielded the religious folklore that God will grant the wishes of those who go to a new church. I think this Folk belief shows hopeful optimism as it takes from dogma and establishes a non-canonical connection with the divine. God will grant the wishes of anyone, all they have to do is visit a new church.

Trunk-or-Treat: An Alternative American Halloween Celebration

Background Info: JB is a man in his early 20s and a close childhood friend of mine who grew up in Long Beach, California. His parents are from St. Louis, Missouri and Brooklyn, New York. He has attended a large (hundreds of members) Baptist church in South Central LA for his entire life.

Context: We were chatting over the phone about ghost stories, and JB remarked that he never participated in games like Bloody Mary because he believed in them. He then segued into talking about his church and how a lot of that fear of the supernatural originated from attending church.

Main Piece:

(In the interview the informant is identified as JB and the interviewer is ES.)

ES: Do you have any specific stuff your church did? Like what denomination were you guys?

JB: Ooh, so we were Baptist which means we liked money [laughs]. I remember for Halloween we’d always have a Harvest Festival at the church so the kids wouldn’t be out in the world doing Halloween. You would just be in the church—and they would still tell you about your salvation and eternal damnation, and like, it was kinda scary, and then you’d just get candy after your lecture. And I’m like “Uh, okay thanks, thanks Pastor.”

ES: Okay

JB: But yeah, so yeah we’d have like Harvest Festivals and Trunk-or-Treat—

ES: [gasp] Trunk-or-Treat! Yes, please explain Trunk-or-Treat to me because I did it at a [Local Church/Daycare Service] once.

JB: Mhm, so yeah, well yeah, it’s never Halloween cuz it’s church so it’s always “Harvest Time” or whatever. They would usually use the parking lot of the building and everybody of the church, like the members and the deacons, they would park their cars and have their trunks sticking out and open their trunks and you would, like, get to design the little back of your car. You could put spiderwebs or hay and you’d have candy in your trunk and then kids would just kinda walk in a circle around the parking lot and go to each thing and just go home.

ES: Yeah, and were you dressed up and everything?

JB: Yeah they would let little-little kids dress up.

ES: Okay—

JB: And, like, probably the first time I trick-or-treated was like late middle school.

ES: Oh really?

JB: Yeah, the first time my parents actually let me.

JB noted later that it was really only young children and elderly members of the church who participated in Trunk-or-Treat and that “people our age” (teens through early 20s) were probably out actually celebrating Halloween, since that’s what he does now.

Thoughts: It’s worth noting that I also participated in Trunk-or-Treat once, though it was slightly different from JB’s description. Trunk-or-Treat is clearly a spin-off celebration of Halloween, since the name is a pun of the phrase “Trick-or-Treat.” Instead of going door to door and asking for candy by saying “Trick-or-Treat,” children instead go car to car and say “Trunk-or-Treat.” Both A and I experienced “Trunk-or-Treat” in a church context, probably because organizations like churches have both the resources and community pull to hold an event as large as this. JB’s Trunk-or-Treat, however, actually occurred on Halloween itself instead of serving as an additional celebration. It seems like it was designed to keep kids in a controlled environment as opposed to celebrating Halloween, which is considered dangerous by some. JB’s offhand mention of scary Halloween-related sermons and his parents’ reluctance to let him Trick-or-Treat until he was thirteen support this.

Performing Good Deeds Blindly-Mexican Proverb

Main piece:

“Haz el bien y no mires a quien”


Do the  good and don’t look at who


Perform good deeds blindly despite the outcomes



Nationality: Mexican

Location: Guadalajara, Mexico

Language: Spanish 

Context and Analysis:

I asked my Informant, a 74-year-old female if she knew of any sayings that have stuck with her throughout her life. My informant recounted to me this saying claiming it is one she strives to live by. She does not know where she first heard this proverb. However, she speculates it was while she was at church. My informant reports she attends mass once or twice a week. The informant says the proverb emphasizes doing a good deed while expecting nothing in return. She states this proverb reminds her that she should selflessly help others. 

I agree with my informant’s interpretation of this proverb. I think the saying emphasizes performing a good deed. I also believe the proverb puts emphasis on the value of not expecting anything in return when doing a good deed. When someone does something kind for others, they should do so out of the kindness of their heart, not for a reward. 

As I continued to analyze the proverb I also found it could also be telling its audience not to look for other’s reassurance that they are a good person by performing a good deed. An example of this would be, placing money in the offerings basket during a Catholic Mass Service. Many people only do so because they believe others are watching them and will judge them if they don’t do so. However, this is something that should be done out of each individuals willingness to contribute despite what others might or might not think of them.