Want a fun alternative to Halloween? Host a Harvest Festival! It is lots of fun. My children wouldn’t trade it for trick-or-treating any day! We have been having Harvest Festivals for the past eleven years. When we first decided that Halloween didn’t fit the description of seeking after things that are virtuous, praiseworthy and of good report, we realized that we couldn’t leave a vacuum. We had to begin a new wholesome tradition to fill the gap left when we abandoned Halloween. My children look forward to Harvest Festival eagerly each year. Rather than decorating our house with ghosts, spiders and ghouls, we focus on the blessings God provides for us in a bounteous harvest. We leave these decorations up right through Thanksgiving. We learn songs such as “Come Ye Thankful People, Come” and other hymns that celebrate the harvest. God is the center of this season.
If you would like to start a new tradition in your family by hosting a Harvest Festival, here are the ingredients for success. Invite 10 like-minded families. We usually make it a homeschool affair but anyone who shares your values will make for good company. We have had parties with 250 people but you can have a great time with just a few families! Make sure you have a variety of ages—teenagers, young children, adults—so everyone will have friends their age to enjoy.
If your group is small, your home is fine. Bigger groups need a church building or other local building in your community. If there is a rental fee, ask every family to donate $2 or whatever it will cost to pay the fee. We decorate very simply on a Harvest theme, such as pumpkins or squash, a horn of plenty, Indian corn, gourds, a scarecrow and bales of hay.
Invite everyone young and old to wear a costume but we ask for non-scary Halloween costumes. Sometimes we have themed our party: medieval costumes or storybook characters. Children love to dress up, and we usually have tigers, bunnies, ballerinas, princesses, dress from other nations, historical heroes, and the like. We do emphasize, however, that we do not want any mummies, vampires, witches, jack-o-lanterns and other Halloween dress. Our invitations state: “no scary costumes!”
The evening can include a potluck supper. This is harvest time, so we try to focus on the foods that the earth has given us. It is wonderful to be able to share a nutritious meal together. Some people bring nutritious desserts, such as carob “brownies” fresh apple cake (unfrosted) and honey popcorn balls. We’ve also tried charging one bag of candy as an entrance “fee” and using that candy as prizes for the games.
We have families volunteer to set up a simple carnival game, such as a ring toss, tin can golf, pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey or bean bag toss, giving each child a piece of candy or a small toy prize for trying. It’s pretty easy to gather small toy prizes by cleaning out your toy box and gather all the little toys or gadgets. One summer I found a whole box full of MacDonald happy meal toys at a yard sale for $1.00. They
make great prizes. So do stickers, pencils, and bouncy little balls. The teenagers often enjoy setting up and running these games for the younger children. It’s fun to include some games for the teens too!
If you have a small group, it can be fun to do a talent show. Anyone can present a talent. We don’t ask anyone to sign up or even make up the program. We just leave it open and it works great. Last year we had a ballet dance, singing, juggling, guitar playing and poetry and scripture recitals. The talent show usually lasts 30 minutes and then everyone pitches in to clean up, wipe off tables and put them away so we will have room for our family dance.
A Family Dance is such refreshing fun. Everyone is included from two-year-olds to Dads. We do the Bunny Hop, the Hokey Pokey, Virginia Reel, square dances, and other fun dances. Initially people may feel shy, but family dancing is so much fun, that once your guests are warm up to it, they will want the dance to go on and on.
The problem is getting everyone to go home! It is such a fun event to be with other homeschool families, that no one wants to leave. Usually we begin at 6:00 PM and are still trying to close the party at 10:00 PM. For our family, Harvest Festivals are a joyful and anticipated event.You can make a frightening holiday into a celebration of God’s goodness in providing abundant food and the blessing of like-minded friends! Have a Harvest Festival!
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