The churches striving to lighten up Halloween

As the popularity of Halloween continues to grow in Australia, some churches are seeking to add a little light back into the celebrations.

“Light Parties” have become increasingly popular in the UK, initiated by Scripture Union. Instead of boycotting the hugely popular celebration, churches are putting on family-friendly events, attracting those who may not want to “trick or treat”, or are looking for an alternative to the scary costumes and ghosts and ghouls.

Halloween: Yes or no?

Should Christians take part in Halloween? Eternity presents a range of perspectives.

We’re celebrating life and light, not darkness.

Mavis Singh is a senior pastor of Elevate Church in Forest Lake, in the outer south-western suburbs of Brisbane. They have run Light Parties for the past nine years

“Halloween is seen as a negative influence on the community by many parents,” she told Eternity. “It undermines teaching about values and safety. Our Light Party is a positive alternative. We’re celebrating life and light, not darkness.”

Mavis says the church’s annual Light Party is even more popular than their Christmas events. The Light Party, held on October 31, attracts close to 1000 people. She estimates that about 90 per cent of attendees do not regularly attend church.

“We offer rides, face painting, food, entertainment. Everything is free. It’s a really big event. And the families just love it. The kids don’t want to leave,” says Mavis. Rides are often sponsored by Brisbane City Council.

One of the most popular features of the Light Party is the requirement to come dressed up as someone positive.

This year, Google released it’s Frightgeista list of top costumes in the United States for Halloween, based on search results. The top five costumes for adults are (1) Witch (2) Dinosaur (3) Harley Quinn (A comic book villain) (4) Rabbit (5) Clown.

At Light Parties, superhero dress up is encouraged. Only the good guys allowed.

Halloween (October 31) falls on a weekend for the first time in five years in 2020, and retailers are expecting Australians to spend up big on costumes and candy despite Covid19 restrictions still in force in many places across the country. In 2019, Australians spent an estimated $159 million on confectionary alone, according to Mars Wrigley Australia.

The annual Light Party for Elevate Church has been cancelled this year because of Covid19.

“There’s too many unknowns with the restrictions to plan well,” says Mavis.

“We are turning Halloween into an opportunity.”

But they plan to be back in 2021.

Mittagong Anglican Church, in the New South Wales southern highlands, is going ahead with their Light Party this year, albeit in a smaller, Covid-safe way.

“It has been a year of cancellations and changes and sometimes missed opportunities,” reads the Church’s event page. “That’s why we are turning Halloween into an opportunity.”

It’s possible a ticketed event like a Light Party will be more successful in coronavirus times. State Governments have released their Halloween COVID guidelines. Trick or Treating is not allowed in Metropolitan Melbourne, while in NSW, trick or treaters are encouraged to stay on front lawns rather than approach front doors, and travel in smaller groups of children from the same household.

And no communal lollies, please.

Of course, there are Christians who will not be acknowledging Halloween at all. And others who join in with the community of trick or treaters, where allowed.

One of Eternity’s most popular articles ever is a piece by author and theologian John Dickson way back in 2012. Dickson traces the history of Halloween and asks the question: Is Halloween evil?

“So, is Halloween today ‘evil’? Sure it is, if it involves the glorification of things satanic; even worse if it trivializes the Devil. And there’s nothing good in the festival if it revolves around playing nasty pranks on neighbours who forgot to buy sweets,” writes Dickson. “Beyond that, a community dress-up involving opening our doors to each other and giving treats to kids in fancy dress is a lovely idea. It might even build friendships in a society hungry for community.”

Perhaps it’s time to think about a Light Party?