You would think that since Jehovah’s Witnesses pass up all the holidays, as well as birthdays, that their lives must be completely devoid of fun. Heavens, no! JWs have frequent “get-togethers.” At least that’s what we called them in the U.S. Never used the word “party.” You can have all the fun you want, as long as you follow some basic rules.
Size of gathering: Must be manageable and well supervised.
Back in the 1970s (in the U.S. at least) an alarming trend developed that had lovers of righteousness rending their garments. Large roller skating parties were being held at roller rinks. A blanket invitation would be issued, perhaps posted on the congregation information board, to several area congregations, and donations would be collected to cover the cost of renting the facility. No booze would be served, and there were plenty of adults to chaperone. Everyone had good, wholesome fun skating around the rink. Of course, as with any crowd, there has to be at least one person who sees the gathering as an opportunity to be naughty, an “incident” occurs, and there are consequences. I think the “incident” that caused the furor was that some “worldly” kids wandered into the party and all the clean and shiny JW kids were contaminated by their worldliness. Maybe they played some disco music (the horror!).
A great deal of tut-tutting occurred and resulted in an edict being issued from the Governing Body to the elders putting the kibosh on all large gatherings. Even though my brother and I had not attended any of these parties, my father, being a sucker for strict rules, sat us down and with a stern face announced that in future we would not be allowed to attend a function if more than 10 people would be there.
I was thinking, “Shoot, we sometimes have more people than that over for dinner.” As it was, we weren’t allowed any freedom of movement anyway, so I don’t know what he was worried about.
Amusements: If any games or sports are played, nobody can get competitive about it; competition is unchristian. If there is music, only wholesome music may be selected (in other words – nothing anyone really wants to hear). If there is dancing, no suggestive movements will be tolerated (which pretty much narrows it down to square dancing and line dancing).
Refreshments: If alcoholic beverages are served…you know what – just don’t do it. Nothing good ever came from having an open bar. JWs love Kool-Aid anyway. ;o)
Food: Since nobody can afford a catered affair it’ll be potluck. Staples of a potluck dinner include several molded gelatin salads (one of which must contain mini marshmallows), at least one big pot of chili, baked beans, potato salad, three varieties of macaroni salad, four or five spaghetti casseroles, chocolate brownies, blond brownies, apple brownies, and M&M brownies.
The inevitable sing-along: Has to be Kingdom Melodies, so that everyone can sing, “We Are Jehovah’s Witnesses” at the tops of their voices.
Timing: Since pleasure should never overshadow theocratic activities, it pretty much has to be Saturday afternoon, so that everyone will have the opportunity to participate in the field service in the morning. Sunday afternoon is out because it’s field service time. Now, be sure the whole event wraps up early enough so that everyone will be fresh for the Sunday meeting.
The reason for the get-together: I think I went to exactly two get-togethers that were thrown for no reason at all, and those were softball games. Most of the time you’d have to wait for someone to get married, have a baby, or move away before anyone suggested a gathering, and then it was usually the same person or people who threw every get-together.
The guest list must be controlled and invitations issued (either orally or by card). No general announcements will be made inviting everyone. In fact, there was even a Watchtower article about get-togethers that stated that nobody should feel hurt if they are not invited to a get-together. Yeah, right.
Watermelon must be served. This is really just a joke. Some of my less-than-pious friends pointed out that, in The Watchtower, every illustration of a get-together showed watermelon being served, so it became a joke among us.
That brings up another point. While I was a JW, and especially in the 80s and 90s, we got quite a bit of counsel on the subject of get-togethers (including wedding receptions)and these were accompanied by a photo or drawing of a group of JWs having fun together, and these pictures were always meticulous in their realism.
Usually it would be set in someone’s living room. Everyone would be dressed like they had just taken off their ties after a meeting – females in skirts, men in nice slacks and sport shirts. Never would you see a pair of jeans or a t-shirt on anyone. No sneakers either. Someone would have a guitar. On the coffee table would be a bowl of popcorn, a pitcher of some brightly colored liquid (the literal Kool-Aid) and the inevitable sliced watermelon. There would be people of all ages represented, and everyone would be singing. Yup I’m yawning too.
It never went down that way. Seriously, does that sound like fun? Usually, someone would rent a school auditorium or Grange hall or something like that, tables would be set up for the food, someone would bring a couple of basketballs to amuse the kids, and generally everyone would just stand around in little knots, chatting (read: gossiping). If there was a sound system, they’d pop in a recording of Kingdom Melodies (I guess there’s a new song book now, but that’s what it was in my time as a JW) which would bring the mood way down. At some point, one of the elders would call everyone to attention, say a prayer, and we’d queue up for the food. Once the eating was done, maybe someone would suggest a game of some sort. I remember dividing up into teams and having a potato race where you have to hold a potato between your knees while you move as fast as you can over a prescribed distance and back. Hilarity ensued.
Other get-togethers involved softball games in someone’s pasture, tables of food set up outside, same procedure. I really enjoyed those games because I could whack the snot out of that softball and release a lot of frustration. People were always amazed at what a slugger I was since I have never given the appearance of being athletic.
Oh, and everyone, except Brother Elderly, would be wearing jeans and t-shirts. And sneakers.
I attended a number of Super Bowl parties as well, but I understand that the Governing Body has started condemning them as being “a trap.” Too much merriment and – gasp! – the possible overconsumption of alcoholic beverages. The parties I went to were not drunken romps. Usually, whoever threw the party had a large TV, it would be potluck, and everyone behaved themselves.
I think that if you want to be bad, you’re going to find a way to be bad no matter how many rules are imposed. So, party on, JW Super Bowl fans!