I began this Autumn Holiday series a few days ago and was inspired to add a couple more to make sure we don’t leave anyone out of the conversation. So far we have covered:
The Halloween portion of this really was more of an introduction to this series and could probably do well with a different title, but it shall remain. I will be going more in depth on our modern cultural Halloween after this one.
So today I’m going to cover how we misunderstood the Protestant Harvest Festivals.
I’ll never forget that first time I was called a Protestant, in fact it was more of an accusation than anything else. At the time, I didn’t even know what a Protestant was. Yes, in a Baptist Church for 15 years and no one ever said that word in my presence. Shortly after I heard the accusation, I finally heard it in an evening Bible history class.
Since I was never a Catholic to begin with, I didn’t consider myself a Protestant. In my mind, a Protestant is one who was a Catholic then protested against it by leaving. This is probably just all semantics so I’ll leave it at that and say that I am not prejudice against Catholics. This series is not meant to be anti- anything; it’s just a series to help promote understanding and grace.
The Protestant churches in America have all sorts of traditions during these holiday months. Each church has different ways of doing things so it’s best to just ask them directly, but I’ll go over a few things that I have seen in California.
photo credit Marsha
Many of these churches aren’t wild about Halloween, but don’t want to be so ‘heavenly minded that they’re no earthly good’. So they don’t omit Halloween altogether. Instead, they provide an alternative which they call, Harvest Festivals. Each church that hosts a Harvest Festival may have different costume guidelines and I recommend you call ahead and ask, out of respect, so your child doesn’t show up only to be asked to leave (not that all churches would do this, but it is possible). They might have small booths with games to play in order to get the candy. It’s really like most other church bizarres you may have been too, only with costumes.
Some churches omit all Halloween and Harvest activities, choosing to abstain from all of it.
Trunk or Treating: Some Harvest activities only involve a modern version of Trick or Treating called, Trunk or Treating. This is when adults decorate the inside of their trunks with lights, put a basket of candy inside, and the kids go trunk to trunk instead of door to door. I do have a concern about this, because I’m not so sure it’s wise to encourage small children to think a trunk is enticing. Far too many kidnappers use their trunks to abduct children.
Door Hospitality: Another alternative these churches have are small private Harvest get together nights in homes while handing out Gospel tracts to the kids who stop by their front doors.
Hell Houses: One more activity some churches have are Hell Houses. With as much grace as I try to have toward other belief systems, this one is the most difficult for me. I favor positive reinforcement over negative frightening methods. Nonetheless, some churches have Hell Houses (or forests, depending on the region you’re in). Their desire is to frighten people with death and imagery of torture then present the guests with their method of evangelism in hopes they will choose Jesus. They usually have volunteers ready to walk them through some Bible passages and ask them to repeat a prayer, followed with an invitation to their church. If the guest is asked for their address, the church visitation team will follow up with a home visit to invite the whole family to church. Some churches do this because they believe it is their duty to tell you their beliefs out of obligation and/or responsibility to God. They believe this is how to engage their community during the Halloween season.
Disclaimer: I cannot, in good conscience, post pictures or link to any Hell Houses. Each one has different imagery including suicidal scenes, botched abortions with cheerleaders laying on gurneys covered in blood, and drunk driving scenarios with actors pretending to be dead. Some Hell Houses require signed parental permission before entering.
During my trek into legalism these activities felt hypocritical and we eventually gave up all Harvest/Halloween activities for a few years.
I think Protestants are trying to find their balance in this world. They’re trying to be engaging while avoiding things they truly feel are detrimental to their walk with God. So please be patient with them while they figure out what works best for them. Honoring Christ among the Protestant church culture will look different for each person, but lets at least agree to be gracious.
In the next post I will cover a more in depth analysis of the modern cultural Halloween in America then after that I’ll share how our family currently enjoys the Autumn holidays.
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