Local churches offering alternatives to trick or treat

Published 1:01 pm Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Several churches in Elizabethton are offering trunk-or-treat and fall festival events as an alternative to neighborhood trick-or-treating. While some churches completely avoid Halloween, other churches see trunk or treat events as a way to reach out to children and their families, who may not attend church.

Most church leaders focus on the social nature of these celebrations, encouraging congregations to engage with others outside the church.

Many children across the U.S. celebrate Halloween by dressing in costumes and walking door to door to neighbors’ houses requesting candy with a cheerful, “Trick or treat!” Carving pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns, watching horror films and visiting haunted houses are other popular pastimes during the spooky season.

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Some churches  – and Christians – consider the day’s festivities to be evil  – or at least, to glorify evil.

But a growing number of pastors are encouraging their congregations to engage with the celebration, mostly by inviting their friends and neighbors to church events on and around Halloween. Those events can include fall festivals; “trunk or treat” gatherings that allow kids to collect candy from cars parked in the church parking lot; or judgement houses, also known as hell houses, that aim to scare the hell out of visitors by depicting its horrors.

Whether it comes from a desire to reconnect with their community after the pandemic prevented much of this or from deepened convictions about the holiday itself, church people appear more resolute in their convictions around Halloween.

Not only are churches offering kid-friendly events for Halloween, but also other organizations. Trick or Treat downtown has become a tradition and draws hundreds of kids – and adults – downtown on Halloween usually from about 3 to 4:30 p.m. Downtown merchants, civic clubs, and other organizations will hand out candy throughout downtown. The event is hosted by Main Street Elizabethton.

Also, the Carter County Sheriff’s Dept. usually hosts trick or treating in the office parking lot at 900 E. Elk Avenue from 5 to 7 p.m. Also, donations of candy are usually accepted for the event.

We all know the traditional fare of Halloween: Jack O’Lanterns, witches, steaming cauldrons, goblins, ghosts, black cats, bats and skeletons. It is the most debatable of non-holiday holidays.

With a past that goes back to Roman times it became in the Christian era “All Hallows Eve,” the day before “All Saints Day,” November first. All Hallows Eve was traditionally a time to remember those who had died, a Memorial Day if you will, a remembrance and a time for contemplation. This is how the deceased theme became associated with Halloween.

Regardless of why Halloween exists it is not going to disappear anytime soon. More money is made by retailers during Halloween than any other “holiday” of the year far eclipsing even Christmas. All those candy sales add up. Sugar equals profit. More so, Halloween has changed since even my college days.

But,  it is good to see “the evil sting” being taken out of the holiday to make it a family-friendly event of reaching out to others. Also, church events are safer events. Almost gone is the holiday of years ago when children dressed in costume paraded through the neighborhood collecting candy and other treats on Halloween. There came the point that candy had to be x-rayed and every child accompanied to every door.

Church trick or treating events are safer for children and it’s an occasion where children know the adults participating. It is a safe event, and not considered evil or non-Christian.

We applaud those churches and groups that make Halloween a safe event for children.