Friday, October 23, 2009

The Church and the Halloween Alternative Party

This is a fun one to through out to all my Christian friends who are no doubt engaged in the classic Halloween vs "Halloween Alternative" debate.

The Church and the Halloween Alternative Party: "

holy_pumpkinOkay, 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.

ke 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.

This feed is from Cerulean Sanctum (http://ceruleansanctum.com), a blog by Dan Edelen that covers issues facing the American Church."

3 comments:

East-Side Chick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nicole said...

I find it amusing that so many people focus on Halloween being a "devil" or pagan holiday, when the far scarier, more insidious, and definitely more evil aspect of it is the commercialization that's happening to all major (and even the minor) holidays.

That said, I respect anyone who, finding that a particular holiday doesn't align with their personal values for whatever reason, veers off from the traditional observation and makes the holiday more palatable to themselves. For example, people who eschew gifts at Christmas and use the time to focus on family and tradition rather than materialism. I give total props for that.

I do agree with you, though, that the fine line between regular and "alternative" Halloween celebrations is a bit laughable. However, if the teensy, tiny distinctions between the two make some Christians feel better about observing the holiday, then that's great for them. I'm all for any excuse to have fun, and I wouldn't want any Christians to miss out just because they were afraid they might be inadvertently participating in some sort of devil worship. What I find a bit obnoxious about it, though, is that so often these "alternative" parties aren't just a way of celebrating in one's own personal manner. Too often they're intended as an expression of displeasure at the way other people choose to celebrate.

What it comes down to, for me: The holiday means to you whatever it means to you, and no one else's way of celebrating it can change that. The symbolism and power of the holiday is within yourself. So figure out what it means to you and go with it!

DK said...

Nicole! Thanks for the comment. Your "expression of displeasure at the way other people choose to celebrate" is a brilliant observation. I have "felt" this concept, but have never been able to put words to it.