It’s beginning to look a lot like Halloween. Candy corn in every store, spectral presences hanging from trees, headstones popping up like mushrooms on neighborhood lawns.
Traditionally known as All Hallows Eve — think Hallows-evening — in Christianity, the night marks the eve of All Saints Day, when celebrants remember their dead.
But the holiday has become almost strictly commercial — at least in America, where the National Retail Federation predicts we’ll spend $9.1 billion on such things as candy and costumes, up from $8.4 billion last year.
Richmond County is rife with celebrations this year, from fall festivals intended to keep children safe from suspected Satanic influences and ne’er-do-wells who could harm them as they trick-or-treat, to straight-up celebrations of the gourmandizing that has become the hallmark of the holiday.
Keeping it biblical
Joy Free Will Baptist Church in Hamlet won’t skimp on the candy, but the emphasis for its fall festival Halloween night will be on scripture.
Children are invited to dress as figures from the Bible, and church members will decorate their cars with biblical scenes for trunk-or-treating. Two popular trunk designs in years past were the maw of Jonah’s whale and the open tomb after Jesus’s resurrection, Pastor Lloyd “June” Grant Jr. said Friday.
“We do keep it biblical,” Grant said of the celebration. “There’s kids who come in off the street (in) worldly costumes.” They are welcomed but cannot enter the costume contest, which is for renditions of Moses and Mary and angels only.
Grant also puts on a Bible-based skit.
“We’re out to give them the light,” he said. “I know in the Bible, there were demons — that Christ cast them out — but we try to stay away from that.”
St. James Catholic Church in Hamlet also will provide a saints-themed trunk-or-treat, from 6:30-8 p.m. Halloween night. Children are encouraged to dress as saints.
Tote or treat
Tyrannia Ellerbe of Rockingham is a professional event manager who throws children’s Halloween and Easter parties each year, mostly on her own dime. This year’s event will be 5-8 p.m. at Ordinary to Extraordinary Event Center, 134 Mill Road, Rockingham. It will feature carnival games, prizes and candy.
“I’ve been seeing the kids in the store and stuff,” Ellerbe said Friday. They have asked her whether she’ll be having a party again this year, as she has for the past four.
Ellerbe said she began her parties as an alternative to “trunk-or-treats” that offered candy but no activities. Her party will offer a cupcake walk, which will entitle each winner to half a dozen of 100 cupcakes whipped up by a volunteer. Pizza also will be available — served throughout the evening so children can alternate eating and playing.
Ellerbe has approached local businesses to help her fill totes with candy that children can dip their hands into but has met with limited success. That means she’ll have to dip into her own funds again — “but it’s OK,” she said. “I do it every year.”
Parents of two autistic children who used to attend Cordova School also want to throw a special party for children with disabilities — a carnival much like the ones Cordova used to have, before it sent its charges to neighborhood schools.
Parent Tammy Benoist frets that her son and other former Cordova students won’t be able to attend special events like the ones they had at Cordova. She also worries that other students won’t understand how her son and other disabled children might react to the stress of a party.
“(So) I took it upon myself,” Benoist said, “and I said, ‘You know what? He’s going to have his carnival.’”
She has been working with three other parents of special-needs children, soliciting donations from local businesses and organizing a carnival, trunk-or-treating and games. A fellow organizer, Judy Glaze, signed up her church as the venue.
The women still seek sponsors, but the party is on nevertheless.
Games and carnival events will run 3-6 p.m., and trunk-or-treating, from 5-6 p.m., at Outreach for Jesus, 440 Battley Dairy Road, Hamlet.
A listing of holiday celebrations follows:
Tuesday: PruittHealth Fall Fest, 6:30-8:30 p.m., 804 S. Long Drive, Rockingham. Games, treats.
Wednesday: Freedom Baptist Church Fall Festival, 6-8 p.m., 987 U.S. 1, Rockingham. Trunk-or-treat, activities.
Friday: Loyal Order of the Moose Halloween party, 6-8 p.m., Moose Lodge, South Long Drive, Rockingham. Games, dance contest, costume contest. Music by Peppermint Patty. Adults must accompany all children.
Oct. 28: Highland Pines Free Will Baptist Church Fall Festival, 3-6 p.m., 2021 McDonald Ave., Hamlet. Inflatables to play on, candy, hot dogs, Christian music.
VFW-sponsored Halloween party, 1-3 p.m., 106 Old River Road, Rockingham. Games, dance contest, costume contest. Music by Peppermint Patty. Adults must accompany children.
Oct. 29: Cordova Baptist Church Fall Festival, 6-8 p.m., 226 Ledbetter St., Cordova. Games, prizes, cake walk, costume content, hay rides, bouncy house.
Halloween: Downtown Spooktacular, 4-5:30 p.m., Leath Memorial Library, 412 E. Franklin St., Rockingham. Children’s movies, treats.
Halloween carnival/tote or treat, 5-8 p.m., Ordinary to Extraordinary Event Center, 134 Mill Road, Rockingham. Carnival games, prizes, candy.
Joy Free Will Baptist Church Fall Festival, 6 p.m., 864 N.C. 177, Hamlet. Skit by pastor, hot dogs, candy, trunk or treat, Christian costume contest, hay rides.
Mount Olive Baptist Church Trunk or Treat, 6-8 p.m., 596 E. Washington St. Ext., Rockingham.
St. James Catholic Church Trunk or Treat, 6:30-8 p.m., 1018 W. Hamlet Ave., Hamlet. Children are encouraged to come dressed as saints.
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673.