>The Hack Holiday of the Harvest Festival (and the better alternative)

Posted: 25/10/2009 in halloween, rants

>This is part II of the Halloween blog.

I know that there are many Christians out there who believe that Halloween is evil and that Christians need to do something else or nothing. As per the previous blog, I think that these fears are silly, but even if we must celebrate an alternative to Halloween, I think that we can do better than a “Harvest Festival.” My point is fairly simple: rather than arbitrarily renaming the secular holiday, why not instead draw on Christian tradition for a historic Christian holy day?

Let’s start with weakness of the Harvest Festival solution. Holidays are not about what you name them, but that activities done on the day and the why behind them. When we compare the activities of the Harvest Festival and Halloween, it turns out there is little different. Both days people dress up in costumes. Both days people carve pumpkins. Both days people eat candy and generally party somehow. Now, it might be said that Harvest festivals don’t have the evil ghouly stuff or scary pumpkins and takes place at a church, but this all difference in degree, not substance.

So how about the why behind the activities? The very term Harvest Festival implies the celebration of a harvest. So what Harvest are Christians celebrating? In most cases, none. Such a celebration makes sense in an agrarian community which depends on a harvest of crop to sustain itself –and I am sure there remain such communities- but that is not what most Christians are doing. I live in Los Angeles, and most people here behave (and vote) as if they don’t know where food comes from. Years ago, I even celebrated a Harvest Festival in my home town, which is surrounded by farm communities, but even there a “harvest” was moot.

Thus I can only really conclude that the why behind the Harvest Festival is also the same as the why for secular Halloween: an excuse to dress up in costumes and have fun. Sorry fearful fundies, the Harvest Festival solution is little bit more than an arbitrary renaming of the same substantive holiday.

I propose that if we must do something different, then let’s participate in a historic Christian holy day instead. The historic Christian holy day(s) I am referring to is of course All Saint’s Day and the corresponding All Hallow’s Eve on October 31st. Briefly put, All Saint’s Day and All Hallow’s Eve were Christian rites that coincided with the pagan October revelries. All Saint’s day, was a day to remember the “cloud of witness” –those Christians who came before us- once a year. It was not a funeral procession, but rather a remembrance of the hope that Christians have beyond death. The Saints, in this case, are not merely the super Christians of history, but literally any Christian who had died was remembered. Such is exemplified by the tradition of Dia de los Muetros in Spain, Latin America, and Mexico.

This is clearly a different substance than the secular Halloween (which actually comes from “All Hallow’s Eve” a Christian overtone) and avoids the cheesy inadequacies of the Harvest Festival. Personally, I would love to have a Holy Day where I could come to church with a portrait of my deceased grandparents among other Christians, doing the same, to remember their lost loved ones. There need be no sense of grief on such an occasion, but rather a triumphant celebration of future resurrection of the dead. A pastor’s sermon could be an annual sermon that reminds Christians of the hope that have through Christ in this matter. Surely, this is a more spiritually substantive alternative than the Harvest Festival.

But I imagine that such a thing would be hard sell around most Evangelical circles and would be loudly rejected by Fundamentalism. After all, it would probably look superstitious and decried as being extra-Biblical. Such objections could be overcome, but not easily. The resistance towards such a thing is indicative of larger problems in the North American Church, which is simply not a position to appreciate and understand holidays beyond minimal celebrations of Easter and Christmas.

Oh well. I will be having more than enough fun with the secular celebrations anyway.

Thanks for reading.

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