This content originally appeared in "All That Jazz" a column by Jasmine Banks in the Siloam Springs Herald Leader.
Halloween is almost here!!! Halloween is by far my favorite holiday. Well, Halloween and Kwanzaa... but that is a discussion for another time. I love Halloween for so many reasons: fun costumes, candy, the spooky decor, whimsical pumpkins, crisp air, pumpkin spice EVERYTHING. It is a wonderful time of the year. Imaginations get to run wild and creativity is unavoidable.
The other day I was driving and I passed a church sign that advertised a “Fall Festival”. The banner outside of the church emphasized fun costumes, candy and lots of carnival games. The date of the activities were suspiciously close to the day of Halloween. I lie, they weren’t suspiciously close... it WAS on Halloween. I laughed to myself, “what in the world!” I don’t understand this cultural trend. Why are Christians doing the whole bait and switch thing? Also, what is wrong with Halloween? Last time I checked it was a highly commercially driven endeavor that is made even more wickedly awesome by adorable tiny people dressed in costumes and pilfering candy. Are we still afraid of the whole “demons/satanic” thing on Halloween? Really? Is calling it a “Fall Festival” changing anything about it?
I tried an experiment on my son. I made him a peanut butter sandwich, like I always do, handed it to him and said, “Here is your Nut Butter Sandwich.” He looked at me and replied, “Peanut Butter, right?” I said, “No! Nut Butter.” He laughed, “Mom... you are crazy. It is Peanut Butter. I can tell!” Giving something a generic tag doesn’t change what it is at its core. So I am confused. Why the semantics? Doesn’t it just make church communities look even more separatist when they try to ignore the larger culture that is doing the same thing they are, but just renamed! This phenomenon is right up there in the confused category of churches that don’t “believe in dancing” but do allow “rhythmic moving”. Lets add to that list people who use replacement words for explicatives. Don’t you mean the same thing and don’t those replacement words mean to express the same thing as the words they are replacing? Can someone explain this to me?
Of course when I found myself perplexed with this Halloween versus Fall Festival business I took to the internets. By internets I mean Facebook. I took a quick poll on the subject. The responses I got were varied and it was very interesting to see how people who were forced to celebrate Fall Festivals as adults. Jordan, a commenter, responded, “ My family did that when I was a kid, because our church taught that Halloween was a pagan holiday in celebration of Satan. So I never got to trick or treat. Every year, we would dress up in "wholesome, Christ-centered" costumes, and go up to the church for an evening of carnival-type games with free candy. Personally, I wish they had let me celebrate Halloween instead.” Another person responded about people saying Halloween is related to Satan, “Satan, my eye! Current Halloween traditions are based on Samhain (pronounced SOW-ehn) an ancient Gaelic festival, heavily influenced by Irish, Scottish, and English folk traditions.” Yet another person, Rob Sorbo a John Brown University Alum, chimed in:”Since Halloween is really All Saints day Eve, my guess is that Fall Festivals are the evil atheist versions.” Of course Rob was kidding about the whole “ evil atheist version” line, but he makes a good point. The religious significance of why Halloween has become Halloween is missed by many churches in the United States. My most favorite reactions was this: “You can put lipstick and heels on a pig and it is still a pig!” Well said!
The reality is that Fall Festivals that do the “Halloween Thing” without calling it Halloween aren’t fooling anyone. We know you are celebrating Halloween, y’all! Also, important opportunities to teach our kids about cultural and religious traditions are being missed when we shy away from such a fantastic time of the year! Can we stop calling it Fall Festival now, please? Like my son Isaiah, who was not fooled by the “nut butter” bait and switch, we totally know y’all are celebrating Halloween too.
Happy Halloween Everyone!