The Church and the Halloween Alternative Party

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Holy Pumpkin--sortaOkay, so color me one of those people who doesn’t get the Halloween Alternative Party that churches throw.

Some call it a Harvest Party/Festival, which is particularly amusing when it happens in churches in the cities or suburbs, both of which are famous for their agricultural base, right? Such references to fecundity also leave me scratching my head. How many see the connections with Christian “harvest festivals” and the various pagan festivals that also celebrate the fertility of the harvest? I mean, if we’re working that hard to distance ourselves from Halloween, enough to throw a distinct celebration, why are we linking ourselves to another pagan festival?

I’m not a fan of Halloween. That it has become big business and an opportunity for adults to wear risqué clothing only makes it worse. I mean, when I was a kid, Halloween was about as scary and wicked as Charlie Brown getting nothing but rocks during his trick or treating.

I’ll admit, though, that Halloween is more focused on shock value than it once was, and that kids are more likely to dress up as zombies with their livers hanging out than fairy princesses or “sheet ghosts,” so the trend IS downward. (Though I also will add that a downward trend marks most everything in our culture, even in the Church.)

If you’re in a particular denomination that fancies itself highly attuned to the spiritual world, you’ll likely hear church leaders offer reasons why your denomination/church eschews any association at all with “the devil’s antics” on Halloween. You’ll hear the obligatory history of Halloween. You’ll have the associations clearly drawn for you. You’ll drink the Kool-Aid. And you’ll feel the compulsion to ensure your kids avoid the pathway to hell that is Halloween.

And thus is born the Halloween Alternative Party. Like everything in modern American Christianity, the idea that we Christians might be left out of secular “fun” just doesn’t sit well with us. No one wants to be a party pooper, while at the same time that burning American Christian need to Christianize secular activities compels us.

The only problem, as I see it, is that the Halloween Alternative Party still looks and feels a lot like Halloween.

HalloweenHalloween Alternative
A fun time with othersYesYes
CandyYesYes
Tainted CandyNoNo
Other treatsYesYes
Elements of the harvest (pumpkins, etc.)CommonlyCommonly
Other themed decorationsCommonlyCommonly
Scary/evil elementsCommonly, but varies widelyLess commonly, unless the church sponsors an evangelistic “Hell House,” and then all bets are off
The majority of participants purposefully celebrating the demonicUnlikelyNo
Kids in costumesYesYes
Adults in costumesCommonlyCommonly
“Noticeable” teen or adult females wearing costumes highly noticed by teen and adult malesUnlikely outside of adult partiesOh, the stories…

So yes, I’m baffled. If there’s a genuine distinction between the two, I’m missing it. If it comes down to one being a slightly less scary version of the other, is that enough to distance ourselves from what are being sold as the genuine dangers of Halloween itself?

The comments are open. Please set me straight.

Like everything in modern American Christianity, the idea that we Christians might be left out of secular “fun” just doesn’t sit with us. No one wants to be a party pooper, while at the same time that burning American Christian need to Christianize secular activities compels us.

37 thoughts on “The Church and the Halloween Alternative Party

  1. I’m interested in the “Oh, the stories” section of your comparison chart. Having never been to a church alternative party, I assume it wouldn’t be appropriate to dress as Jezebel, Salome, et. al.?

      • Kate

        You know… I understand your points (kind of) we still hand out tracts, because God is able to bring someone to disciple along if some seed took root. And how often do non-believers approach my door, wiling to take whatever I pass on to them… I also include some of the better candy options so I don’t look like a Christian kill-joy. 😉 Also… there is no reason for Christians to distance themselves in any way from ‘Harvest’ themes… the Bible is chock full of spiritual analogies and historic acts of God taking place at harvest. God is the one who created the seasons, and they speak of His creation and design. Why not use these natural elements as testimony to their Creator?

        I really don’t like big churchy, evangelical, harvest alternative festivals personally and think they are not very effective. A whole lot of time, money and effort spent with probably little to show for in the end. But I understand why they are undertaken. I think strong churches who create mature engaging individuals who then impact the lost around them, in person, is a more effective way of reaching the lost.

  2. bob pinto

    No mention of teen vandalism??? Soaping up car windows and don’t forget the eggs.

    Dan, I am 51 and got royally bamboozled by tall tales of demon worship and human sacrifices by the thousands.

    Just a couple of years ago it was a delight in trailer park to hand out goodies to little kids dressed like a fairy or a duck. Recently, though outsiders would pile in sometimes more than once, and now I don’t feel like it, plus not nearly as many kids as before.

    My wife’s cousin really decked his house out and when the kids started to leave the house, he’d come tearing around the corner with a ski mask and a roaring chain saw.

    I’d like to do that but all I have is an electric weed whacker.

  3. Laura W.

    Wish we could wipe Halloween and all “alternatives” off the calendar completely. I wish we could return Thanksgiving to prominance.

    • Laura,

      I have long held that churches should have one service per quarter dedicated to nothing but testimonials of God’s goodness. In lieu of this, a regular, special Sunday evening service could be held that combines this same idea with a “communion feast.” Talk about retuning thanksgiving to its proper place!

  4. Valerie in CA

    My husband and I let our kids dress up and go trick or treating. We’re not ‘into’ Halloween (e.g. I don’t decorate the house). Last year my husband made hilarious robot costumes for our boys out of cardboard boxes, glue gun, spray paint, & clothes dryer vent ducts. Our ten year old is feeling a little too old for it this year, but our 7 year old is feeling the candy thing and the three year old is thrilled to dress up as a princess. When my husband was a pastor, we were at a church that held the biggest ‘harvest festival’ in town and it was an okay alternative. Either way, we really don’t care and don’t see why people get so up in arms. I kind of don’t like harvest festivals because they take families out of neighborhoods. No one goes trick or treating anymore.

    Whenever people try to gently criticize us for observing Halloween, my husband has a brief explanation that involves: (1) All Saints Day/All Hallows Eve and celebrating the year’s victory of saints over Satan, and (2) applying all of the Christian anti-Halloween-arguments to Christmas. So my husband always says if we’re going to skip Halloween then we’re going to skip Christmas too… I liked your checklist. Run a comparison between Christmas and Halloween and it will surprise you: pagan roots, etc. Egads, and then there are the people who won’t celebrate Christmas either. Legalism and fear!

    The Christian hysteria over Halloween bores me. Its so ’80s. If people feel convicted by the Lord that they shouldn’t observe Halloween, then that’s great. But trying to apply your personal convictions (in an area of freedom) to someone else is the definition of religion, and God hates that kind of religion.

    • Emma

      I have to say, what I find missing from this post is the joy of the Lord. Kind of a condescending, stuffy tone to this article. The author is very critical of urban and suburban churches hosting harvest festivals, etc. He sounds like he would have us all walk around in sackcloth and ashes. It’s fine if he personally does not like church alternatives to halloween parties, but he doesn’t have to show up to them. I also suspect this article’s author does not have children. He doesn’t offer any suggestions for helping children through avoiding a very popular time of year with non-Christian children; he simply mocks and criticizes the effort of churches to provide their children with a wholesome day.

  5. I love Halloween.
    Why?
    Because it is fun and my kids love it.
    It is all about having fun.
    I think Christians over react Halloween.
    And Christians who over react tend to give Christianity a bad rap among non-believers.
    Come on can’t we just be normal?

  6. Drew K

    Not inclined to be legalistic, but why can’t we just ignore the whole thing? It IS trying to be like the world. Are we afraid to be different? I ‘m all in favor of “skipping Christmas” too. I’ve done it and suffered no ill effects. Restoring Thanksgiving would be good. (Laura W). A word to Valerie and preacherman: try to be a bit less disdainful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 1 Cor.10:23

    • We could buy popular, individually wrapped candy; unwrap each one, eat it ourselves; and use the wrappers to wrap up rocks. “Bread of deceit is sweet to a man; but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel” (Proverbs 20:17 KJV). 🙂

  7. Valerie in CA

    I didn’t mean to come off as disdainful. Sorry to have offended you, Drew. I have found much of the disdain regarding this subject to flow from non-Halloween-observers. They regard those of us who are more lax regarding the subject as fleshly, misguided, and most of all somehow inadvertently worshipping Satan, as if Satan is somehow more powerful on Oct 31 or something and eating Snickers is giving in to his devilish schemes (not!).

    Every single one of the 365 days in our calendar has some pagan holiday being observed somewhere globally, or has a history of a pagan holiday. Just because I gave my kids Taco Bell yesterday for dinner (a cause for celebration, as far as they’re concerned), does not mean that I was ‘celebrating’ some pagan holiday from a zillion years ago. Likewise, I am fine with observing All Saints Day (and All Hallows Eve) even if its layered on top of a bunch of other pagan observances. God sees the heart, and he knows where our worship is directed. All Saints Day is actually an amazing observance with fascinating history.

    Geographically, many Christian churches have been built on sites once given over to pagan worship practices. Mark Driscoll’s church in Seattle just bought a strip club and turned it into a church building. Are there some kind of residual demonic presences that cannot be overcome? I think not. Likewise, Christians can co-opt just about any day of the year and turn it into a day of worship and nothing, not even hell, can prevail against the church.

    I thought I was clear a the end of my post: if the Holy Spirit leads an individual or family to abstain from anything, including a holiday observance, great. I rejoice in and fully support that. But if I am not under the same conviction (in an area Biblically regarded with freedom), then I am not obligated to go along with someone else’s conviction.

    If Christians would stop sniping at eachother about dumb stuff like this, we could turn our attention to winning the lost and standing together for Christian orthodoxy where it really counts. We would then find much to rejoice in, and much more fellowship than we currently enjoy.

    ‘To the pure, all things are pure…’

  8. Bernard Shuford

    I’ve got much more problem with Hell Houses and the like than I do with Fall Festivals. We have no idea what hell is really like, and fear based conversions are possibly one of the biggest problems in American Christendom. Fall Festivals are typically a way for kids and adults alike to get some exposure to the church community.

    I despise a lot of things about Halloween, but I see a lot of people around Halloween who desperately need Jesus. Do we CARE about them, or just wish that they would take off the mask and disappear quietly?

  9. Victoria Clark

    What if Christians took a stance? A Holy stance for Jesus Christ? One day.. and sat their children down and told them the TRUTH! Telling them that no one should be partakers of that which is dark?? If one day.. we took a stand for Holiness, not buying candy, not buying costumes, no buying pumpkins for carving. What if the Churches SHUT their doors to alternative festival activities on the HOLIEST SATANIC day of the year.. The message it would send to our communities.. this generation, the World.. Oh how this would Echo into Eternity!

    Victoria Clark
    victoria@liveoffensively.com

    • Noooo! We must be relevant, inoffensive, and all things to all people! Besides, many churches already give out candy during Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. And have you seen some of the costumes people wear to Sunday services (especially among serious Holiness people)? Scary!!! 🙂

      • Victoria Clark

        I don’t agree with you I’m sorry. But American Christianity is almost totally all wrong. Compromise kills. The Bible says we must be all things to all people but it also say all things are lawful but not all things are just. Giving satan kudo’s is retarded.

        I am talking about the holiest satanic day of the year. Not vacation Bible school.

        As far as what people wear to church? Before God can change your shirt He’s got to change your heart. Where is the real transformation, where is the fruit in American Christianity? Where is Jesus? Or do we compromise.. showing the World a watered down version of the Holy Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

        We’re to be set apart and not running pararrel with satan.

        I love people enough to tell them the truth not be silent and let them die and go to hell. C’mon Saints!… what is UP?????

        • The Jesus Died for Terrorists T-shirt is pretty cool. I like Christian T-shirts and frequently wear them in public. But I’m a little tired of Braveheart themes. A two-handed sword would make it difficult to carry the shield of faith. 😉 And I don’t subscribe to the belief that I can’t have any fun because other people are going to hell.

          I shouldn’t do anything on Halloween because some people consider it a satanic holiday? Should I not go to church on Sunday because the restaurant Godfrey’s downtown has a transvestite drag fashion show on Sunday mornings?

          Seriously: Romans 14, man! 🙂 I consider Halloween a day like any other day. Just because hellbound loonies run around screaming like banshees does not take away that “This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” I don’t have a problem with harvest festivals. I think hell houses are creative evangelism, if done well. If you want to go door to door dressed up in evangelistic garb and leave tracts, great! If you want to give tracts to trick or treaters, great!

  10. Here are two blog posts about being a Christian on Halloween:

    [ 1 ]: “It sounds cheesy but in regards to Christians and Halloween—WWJD? If Jesus were around today would he hide up in his house, turn off his lights, and hope that nobody knocked on the door? Would Christ, who was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard, try to avoid all signs of Halloween (Luke 7:34)? Is this the same Jesus that was friends with sinners and tax-gathers (Luke 5;27-32)? To be accused of being a glutton or a drunkard, or friends of the unfriendable don’t you have to be hanging around those types of people in the first place?”

    [ 2 ]: “The one day of the year where children (”Permit them to come to me…” Mark 10:14) were attempting to come to us and we shut the door and turn off the lights.”

  11. Victoria Clark

    Eph:5:11-13
    And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says, Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light. See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise but understand what the will of the Lord is.

    Going by this brother..

    Deut. 18:9-14

    When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found amoung you anyone who makes his son or daughter pass thru the fire, or one who practices whitchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer. Or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you.

    You shall be blameless before the Lord your God.

    The way I see exposing the Light of Christ is by putting Halloween Christian style out of business.

    18000 members at Calvary Community Church said no to satan last night and affected the entire state of Az. for their stand for Holiness.

    2 Cor. 6:14-15
    Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness: And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?

    The believers are participating in a well-known paganistic Holiday full of sorcery, witchcraft and evil occultic practices. Even tho they aren’t doing the practices b/c of our participation it continues to go on. If we would take a stand in uncompromisable Holiness then Halloween would go broke and the Light would truly be shed on the darkness. We have a whole year to evanglise Christ and to welcome all the children to Jesus.

    Be separate, stand up, see revival, see revolution, see change!

    Love you bro and your heart

  12. Headless Unicorn Guy

    Christian Harvest/Reformation Day Festivals in five words:

    “JUST LIKE HALLOWEEN, EXCEPT CHRISTIAN(TM)!”

    Need I say more?

    (Just that Halloween began when us Romish Papists “Christianized a secular/pagan holiday” over 1000 years ago. Why reinvent the wheel?)

  13. Headless Unicorn Guy

    P.S. “Halloween is SAY-TANN-IC!” never became an issue until Mike Warnke et al started the Satanic Panic back in the Eighties. Remember that? When a Vast SATANIC Conspiracy was running everything in the country and the world and trying to Get Your Christian Children through Halloween and D&D and Ritual Sexual Child Abuse?

    Well, Cornerstone exposed Warnke — and John Todd, and a couple other movers and shakers — as complete frauds a few years later, but by then the damage had been done and Conspiracy Theory dynamics were in play: The Dwarfs are for the Dwarfs, and Won’t Be Taken In.

  14. Mary Martindale

    I am glad that you posted this blog about “Alternative Parties” because I have been thinking the same thing. How are they different than traditional Halloween? And the truth is that they aren’t much different. I am really torn about trick-or-treating. My sister and I used to do it all the time growing up. My husband and I take our young boys. Every year they go as some type of superhero. Is that a bad thing?

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