By PETER LEE
Just where did Halloween originate and is there any connection with the protestant church? This is the question being asked by a number of churches in Tuolumne County. As Halloween approaches, the forms of expression for this annual event are multiplying at such a rate, that goblins and ghosts may lose out to a more popular version of decorated car trunks filled with candies and other good stuff.
To understand where this all started we need to turn back the pages of history to Constantine as our fall guy and the pun covers both what he did in 313 A.D. and what happens on Oct. 31 in the fall.
History tells us that Constantine had a vision of a cross in the sky and he took this to be an omen and he defeated his enemies in the next battle. He then issued the Edict of Milan giving religious tolerance to all religious groups.
In 380 A.D. Theodosius I issued another edict making Christianity the state religion of Rome. In the space of a very short time the church went from a persecuted religion to being the accepted religion of Rome. Countless pagans entered the church bringing with them their practices. This brings us back to Halloween, which is one of those pagan Celtic practices that somehow got into the church many years ago and is still with us today.
It became a common practice in the early church to commemorate and praise the martyrs developing into the Feast of All Holy Martyrs in the 7th century and held on May 13. In the 9th century Gregory IV moved this date to Nov. 1. The night before became known as All Hallows Evening and the term was eventually shortened to Halloween. The Celtic celebration of their New Year on Nov.1 called Samhain had connections with the dead and hence the connections between a secular and a religious remembrance occurring both on the same day.
In Tuolumne County it can be fun for children, and sometime parents, to be dressed up as goblins and ghosts, but the local churches want to offer their version of a safe, fun way of celebrating Halloween but from a Christian perspective, hence the Fall Festival. Sonora churches have a variety of offerings.
The United Methodist Church on Yaney Avenue offers a double incentive Trunk or Treat in that in order to decorate the trunk of your car, you have to clean it out first. Children will not be forgotten since treats will be passed out and there will be a costume contest, games and crafts. The event is 5 p.m. Oct. 27.
St. Matthew Lutheran Church will hold another Trunk or Treat at 5 p.m. Oct. 31. Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Sugarpine is hosting a MusicFest at 11 a.m. Nov. 4. Creekside Community Church will have a Harvest Party with "in the Mixx" D.J. with dancing, games, hot dogs and face painting from 5-9 p.m. Oct. 31. Chapel In the Pines in Twain Harte will hold its annual children's Harvest Party between 5 and 7:30 p.m. Oct. 28 in the Old Chapel annex. Children should bring one bag of individually wrapped candy. They request no monsters or ungodly costumes. The Christian Heights Assembly of God Church on Joshua Way will offer a Hollywood Carnival from 6.30 to 8.20 p.m., Oct. 31. There will be a bounce house, a Hollywood stunt course, and a costume show off.
This year you may want to consider an alternative to Halloween. You may also be introducing your children to the values of a community event through your local church and in so doing, setting them up for an education for life.
Peter D. Lee of Sonora teaches World Religions and Spirituality at Columbia College.