29 October 2010 ~ 7 Comments

Halloween: Rethinking The Holiday

Halloween is approaching this weekend.
And for the first time since 2003, I won’t be slinging hay around a church for Halloween.
I’d be lying if I said I was bummed about that.  I don’t have a very good relationship with hay anymore.  I’d say it’s love/hate, but I’m not sure where the love comes in.

Lots of churches take the opportunity of the cultural holiday to bless their communities and provide a safe environment for families to celebrate for Haloween…errrr…Harvest.  I get it, and for those doing it, that’s cool.  Go for it!
For me, several years ago my take on that approach started changing a bit, though.  I was always the, “let’s produce a big event” guy.
But something started getting to me about Halloween.
(And no, it’s not that I decided Halloween is evil and we shouldn’t participate.)

All year long, many of our churches encourage people to stop spending all their time at church and get to know their communities.
We encourage people to get to know the people that live around them and actually get involved in their lives.
Still I’ve had church people admit to me that they have no clue who their next-door neighbors are.  Like many in our culture, they go to work, come home, drive into their garage, close the garage and go inside til the next morning when they open the garage door long enough to drive out and go to work again.
Then, on the one day a year that most of our neighbors come knocking on our door, we ask people to leave their house and come to the church, which nowadays is often in a completely different community.

So the question is, if we are going to be at home, how can we be more intentional about being there.
Oh, and the answer ISN’T give each kid a piece of paper telling them what you believe and that they should believe it too.
Here’s a couple ideas:

  • One friend told me about a neighbor who would make Root Beer Floats in the front yard and it always ended up with a bunch of families milling around having floats together.
  • It’s a bit cold where we live for floats, so Rachel and I are hoping to have some hot cocoa and/or cider along with candy to warm people up and give em a chance to stop and drink for a few before moving on.
    Speaking of, anyone have a hot water heater with a spicket or a big thermos container I can borrow?
  • Throw a Halloween party.  (Actually, can’t wait to go to our neighbors party earlier in the day. It helps having awesome neighbors and they know how to throw a party!)
  • Simply ask if they’re from nearby and introduce yourself as you hand out candy.
  • Just have a few friends from the area over to watch a festive movie with or have some drinks and play games with each other while you wait for trick-or-treaters to show up.
  • You could make your house into a cool maze for people to go through.  I always loved those houses as a kid.
  • Ante up and give out full size candy bars.  You’ll probably end up with all the neighborhood kids coming to your house before long.  That being said, we aren’t planning to do that one!
  • What if churches split up the money they use for the big event and gave it to home groups to do something fun at a nearby park or a house in their community?  I’ve heard of a couple churches doing this and it sounded like a pretty good compromise between the two.

What can I say?  I’m an extrovert and love opportunities to get to know people and make a few more friends.
What other ideas can you add?
What are your plans this Halloween?

7 Responses to “Halloween: Rethinking The Holiday”

  1. Tory 29 October 2010 at 7:21 pm Permalink

    When I was a kid I loved my church’s Harvest Festival, but I was also “indoctrinated” heavily that Halloween was bad. This completely put me at odds with my dad’s side of the family; my shut-in grandmother who was on oxygen 24/7 delighted in Halloween; it was her favorite holiday. Looking back I realize now that she was lonely and was thrilled when kids and people came to her door every Halloween. As I write this, I also realize that it was probably one of the few times a year where people weren’t afraid of her! She looked like a very convincing witch and rather scary with her labored breathing and very old appearance.

    But scary is good on Halloween.

    Now that I have kids, I want them to have the same magical experiences I had, and I realize so much I did not know then! Yet sill, I wrestle with the tension I grew up with at church, my family enjoying Halloween, and my church who abhorred it. I’ve had to sift through what I believe and why, and its not easy because it seems everyone has an opinion about this holiday! I know it has pagan roots….. but doesn’t all holidays?

    When my oldest was 3 we went to a church Harvest Festival. I was hoping to recapture the experience I had as a child and it sadly disappointed. The lines were long and I since it wasn’t my church I did not know anyone and hardly talked with anyone. It disappointed. I realize now that what I wanted was a sense of connection and even though I was in a church environment, it was lacking.

    The past several years we’ve trick-or-treated in my neighborhood. My mother in law wanted us to come and visit where they recently purchased a house, but we declined because we enjoy trick or treating where we live. Our neighbors expect to see my kids every year. They set aside special treats for them. And since we live just blocks from the elementary school my kids attend, we inevitably wind up walking (or running!) with other folks that aren’t my immediate neighbors but are my community. The parents trail a few feet behind the kids, and we chat and walk with our coffee mugs and ooh and ah over the cutes costumes. Is it a tentative connection? Is it superficial? Perhaps. But I like to hope that it builds to something more.

    And besides that, it is just fun. I liked your idea of hot chocolate and cider to hand out, or a party with a big pot of soup or chili, but it has to be accompanied by trick-or-treating. My neighbors are expecting us to knock on their doors.

  2. bobby 29 October 2010 at 2:50 pm Permalink

    Oh and Sara…thanks for commenting! ;)
    Good to hear from ya.

  3. bobby 29 October 2010 at 2:03 pm Permalink

    Linda – You crack me up!

    Garrett – That sounds awesome! I might have to try that one sometime.

    Sara – I saw you were asking about a pumpkin patch on HWY 1. If you’re gonna be over Santa Cruz way, my old church, Christian Life Center does a great job with their Harvest Festival. If you are looking for a place, swing by there.

    I get what you’re saying and can see why it’s nice to have an event to attend also. It would be interesting to know why that church no longer has the event you’re talking about. I’m actually more OK with the events when it’s just simply to bless the community. But when it’s to try and bring people into the church, I think some churches that had that mentality are doing it less cause often it doesn’t work that way.

    And yeah, I think it’s a little funny that we have to use the word Harvest. I mean who really harvests anything anymore? Not to mention we do the event on Halloween at lots of churches, dress up, and hand out candy. So really it’s just an alternative word that means the exact same thing but we just don’t wanna say it. Maybe it’s like the reverse version of saying Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. Hmmm…never thought of it that way. K, now I’m just rambling.

  4. Garrett 29 October 2010 at 12:59 pm Permalink

    We live right at the top of a cul-de-sac. We found out, when we moved into this house, that everyone gets together and “pot-lucks” the candy (for the kids) and the food (for the adults). We’ve noticed that it brings the group together and we have tons of fun.

    Now we are looking at buying a house of our own in a new community. I hope that we will be able to bring a similar get together to our new neighborhood.

  5. Sara 29 October 2010 at 12:53 pm Permalink

    My take? I prefer the “harvest” festivals. I find the 9.2 seconds that the kids are actually on my doorstep rarely leaves time to “get to know” my neighbors. The ones that live around me know me and spend time with me. The ones who live up the street and around the corner aren’t there to say hi, they’re there to get some candy. I prefer to have churches doing a big shindig which gives me something to *specifically* invite my neighbors to. I find that they then feel a connection to a local church no matter how thin it is. When times get tough they recollect the evening they spent there and its a natural in to feeling like they could try out the church itself. I can’t tell you the countless numbers of unchurched friends and family members who have asked me about a local church’s now defunct Trunk or Treat. It was a huge outreach to the community and something people began to rely on. It was a safe and fun way to connect and allowed the outside world to get a glimpse of the people who make the church itself.

    And the selfish part of me finds me wishing more places were doing the community event. In fact last year we trick or treated and stayed home and it was LAME. The kids didn’t have fun, I didn’t have fun. This year we’re seeking out a church festival so that we can live it up with friends and family instead of isolating ourselves at home watching the DVR and intermittently answering doorbells. I think ultimately we all think too much about this holiday. Odds are if you don’t already know your neighbors you aren’t going to choose a holiday in which they’re all in disguise to say hi. *wink*

  6. Aunt Linda 29 October 2010 at 12:19 pm Permalink

    BTW…..when is Halloween?

  7. Aunt Linda 29 October 2010 at 12:18 pm Permalink

    Hard to believe we’re related……I love driving in my garage, closing the door, and running into the house and not coming out until the next morning, when I then open my garage door, drive out and close it and start all over again. That’s what great about living where I live, you don’t even have to buy minature candy bars, let alone full size!!! But, hey, have a Happy Halloween!!!

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