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Five Halloween Alternatives

Sue 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-so-Christian day.

Halloween Alternative One: 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 each family 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 each family decide on their favorite story about an experience that involved their entire family. Tell each family 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 family group.

Close your group time together by pointing people to Jesus as the consummate storyteller. The next morning, give each family a story that Jesus told so they can discuss what the story means. Encourage each family to be an important link in the chain of storytellers that spread the good news of Jesus Christ.

Other ingredients for this Halloween Family Storytelling Retreat could include fun table graces, craft projects, free time for each family, large group games, get-to-know-you activities, outdoor games, team challenge races, face painting, a campfire, picnic meals, or a service project.

Halloween Alternative Two: 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 Halloween "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!

Halloween Alternative Three: Family Harvest of Blessings Party -- If you "carrot all, you'll turnip" at this party! Now this may be a challenge, but have each family 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 family ingredients for your party recipe:
Service projects -- Collect food for the family 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.

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