Fun Ways To Change The Focus Of Halloween
By Susan Lennartson
Halloween’s origins are rooted in the occult. The ancient Druids believed that on October 31, Saman, the lord of death, called forth hosts of dead spirits to visit their earthly homes. They believed that demons masqueraded as fairies, goblins, vampires, and werewolves. People would set out food and drink to placate the evil spirits. Trick or treating is a direct outgrowth of these ancient practices.
But kids enjoy Halloween. So how do you provide alternatives to the “evil” aspects of Halloween and still allow kids to have fun? If goblins and ghouls haunt you at Halloween, try these fun-filled Christian versions of a not-50-Christian day.
1. Family Storytelling Retreat
Have a family overnight retreat at a camp, retreat center, or school. Start around 5:30 p.m. on a Friday. Tell families to bring their favorite hors d’oeuvres for a potluck appetizer supper.
After dinner, lead the group in singing lively songs with actions. Then have people get together with their own family. Have families decide on their favorite story about an experience that involved their entire family. Tell families they need to prepare a skit about that story to present to the other families. Skits should be no longer than five minutes.
After the presentations, form groups of four families. Have these groups each sit in a circle. Give them a story-starter sentence, such as “Once there was a man who couldn’t figure out how to … ” One at a time, have group members add one sentence to the story until the story is complete. Start the story with the person who has the most gray hair (the wisest) in each group.
Close your group time together by pointing people to Jesus as the consummate storyteller. The next morning, give families each a story that Jesus told so they can discuss what the story means. Encourage families to be an important link in the chain of storytellers that spread the good news of Jesus Christ.
Other ingredients for this retreat could include fun table graces, craft projects, free time for families, large group games, get-to-know-you activities, outdoor games, team Challenge races, face painting, a campfire, picnic meals, or a service project.
2. Children’s or Family Dinner Theater
Bring the children of the church and community together with a musical production. Select a children’s musical that your children or families can prepare to present. You may want to use a “good conquers evil” theme. Enlist a director, a music director, a choreographer, a props person, a director of ticket sales, and a publicity coordinator. This may require weeks of rehearsal, setup, scheduling, and arranging, but everyone involved will enjoy the end result.
On the Friday or Saturday before Halloween, invite families to enjoy a casual spaghetti or potluck dinner. After the meal, bring on the entertainment!
3. Harvest of Blessings Party
If you “carrot all, you’ll turnip” at this party! Now this may be a challenge, but have people come dressed as their favorite food! The costumes will be fun and original. Encourage creativity and nurture a sense of excitement. Use food clip art in your publicity. This is a fun way to celebrate the harvesting of foods in October-a foretaste of the feast to come in heaven!
Here are a few key ingredients for your party recipe:
* Service projects-Collect food for the food shelf. Bring birthday party items and make birthday party packs. Or collect funds to support an inner-city free meal program.
* Crafts-Decorate pre-baked cookies. Tie-dye T-shirts with colors from foods, roots, or flowers. Make salt dough creations and ornaments. Decorate pumpkins or gourds. Create cornstalk wreaths, dolls, or ornaments. Face paint with a food theme!
* Games-Toss bean bags that look like different foods onto plates. Play Fruit Basket Upset. Get out the tumbling mats and have a Banana Flip Run. (See who can run and do the most somersaults before running out of steam.) Have food relays. For example, kids can carry radishes on a celery stalk.
* Devotions-Study the fruit of the Spirit. Use visuals and role-playing. Study biblical passages that deal with the harvest or vineyards.
* Music-Take familiar tunes and change the words to create fun new songs that go with your theme.
4. Mystery Tour of Surprises
On the weekend of All Saints’ Day, take kids on a two-and-a-half hour mystery tour. Arrange enough transportation for all the kids in your program. Plan approximately five stops and arrange for kids to receive a treat or enjoy an activity at each stop. Here are possible mystery tour stops:
* grocery store – receive an apple;
* park – play a game;
* hospital – deliver flowers to patients;
* community pool – take a dip;
* bowling lanes – bowl a few rounds;
* another church – hear a short message;
* department store – receive samples; and
* homes – have a snack.
At each stop, the children can also give as well as receive. For example, they could sing a song, make a food donation, or deliver handmade cards.
If it’s impossible to arrange transportation, then adapt this mystery tour to your church facility, church grounds, or school.
5. Family Hayride
Schedule a hayride at a nearby ranch or farm. Or use lawn tractors and trailers piled with hay on your church grounds. Include a cookout or campfire with fun outdoor treats. Have a rousing sing-along with guitars, ukuleles, banjos, fiddles, and tambourines. Encourage the children to be part of the band by playing rhythm instruments to praise God! How about some easy line dancing? While some people are on the hayride, others could be involved in movement through line dancing.
All Treat-No Trick
If you want successful alternative Halloween activities, keep these things in mind.
* Publicity-Move away from using bats, witches, and ghosts in printed publicity pieces. Instead, use nature images such as trees, cornstalks, food, or leaves.
* Costumes-Kids (and most adults) love to dress up. If you forbid costumes, you’ll spoil half the fun. So allow costumes, but encourage people to choose positive costumes such as animals; professions; and sports, Disney, or Bible characters.
* Guests-Consider who you could invite to your festivities. How about other churches, community people, or children with special needs? Maybe you could even take your party on the road to a children’s hospital.
This article “Fun Ways To Change The Focus Of Halloween” by Susan Lennartson is excerpted from Christian Educators Magazine, March 2003 edition.