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Do Jews Celebrate Halloween?

Do Jews Celebrate Halloween?

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Question:

Do Jews celebrate Halloween? I know its origins aren't very "Jewish," but I'm worried that my kids will feel left out if they can't go trick-or-treating in the neighborhood.

Answer:

Let me tell you about a wonderful Jewish holiday: once a year, our children dress up as sages, princesses, heroes and clowns. They drop by the homes of our community, visit the infirm and the aged, spreading joy and laughter. They bring gifts of food and drink and collect tzedakah (charity) for the needy.

You guessed it--it's called Purim, when it's customary to send mishloach manot--gifts of food--to one's friends and even more gifts to those in hard times.

Flip it over (October instead of March, demanding instead of giving, scaring instead of rejoicing, demons instead of sages, etc.) and you have Halloween. There you have it: a choice of one of two messages you can give to your children. I call that a choice, because one of the beautiful things about kids is that, unlike adults, they don't do too well receiving two conflicting messages at once.

I know how hard it is to be different, but as Jews, we have been doing just that for most of our 3,800 years. Since Abraham and Sarah broke away from the Sumerian cult of gods and demons, we have lived amongst other peoples while being very different from them. And we dramatically changed the world by being that way.

That's a proud and nurturing role for any child: To be a leader and not a follower, to be a model of what should be rather than of what is.

Make your kids feel that they are the vanguard. They belong to a people who have been entrusted with the mission to be a light to the nations--not an ominous light inside a pumpkin, but a light that stands out and above and shows everyone where to go. Forget about Halloween and wait for Purim to turn the neighborhood upside down!

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at Chabad.org, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
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Sam November 1, 2016

Although some of the costumes are pretty creative. Like the girl who dressed as Optimus Prime with Amazon Prime boxes. Reply

Abraham Tulsa November 1, 2016

Thank you for your support!!!

Yes, we have much in common.

Your plan for Hallowe'en sounds excellent.

That leaves the neighborhood. If there are childen going "trick or treat" I want to be home for them so as to be a good neighbor. These are my children's playmates! We don't have a solidly Jewish neighborhood here, even near the synagogue.

So I have a bowl of nickels and dimes for them to take a handful. Then I don't have to worry about eating leftover candy, or about buying candy that makes children sick (or worse). And I stay home and leave the porch light on, but I do not set out spooky lawn decorations. Instead, I decorated my sukkah, which was a lot more fun!

If the synagogue had a "play evening" on Hallowe'en, I would drop of my kids, but one of us parents would stay home to hand out the coins to "trick or treaters". Reply

Anonymous Reston, VA October 31, 2016

I feel your pain. I'm Muslim and we go through the same process. Our holidays are based on pure lunar, so every year the dates are different. To make it even complicated, it changes season over the years. Further, we have infighting if the moon was sighted, making it unsure if the holiday is tomorrow or day after.

We have Halal rules ( similar to Kashrut). And Halloween is a challenge. Our local mosque has arranged a fun night for kids and families so kids feel part of community and don't feel left out. Just returned where they had games, magic show, food etc. Maybe the local synagogue may support this effort too?

However, as the Rabbi said in the article, there is a choice. And you should choose wisely. Reply

Anonymous Sharon, MA October 31, 2016

Thank you!
Yesterday at children's museum my older daughter was asked if she wants to decorate a bag to go trick or treat, and she didn't know what it was all about.
True that there are silly traditions in the US, but candy at Simchat Torah makes more sense to us than knowing on random houses... Reply

Daniel Houston, Tx September 18, 2016

We have a different calendar. We can't even tell our non-Jewish friends when the Jewish New Year is, unless it's on their own calendar--on the solar calendar (the Christian calendar) it's a different date every year. Purim too.

A school superintendent was approached with the request that major school testing be on some day other than Rosh HaShanah. He promised. The following year it was on Rosh HaShanah again! The community leaders approached him again & he said, "I especially avoided having it on Sept 27. Why do you keep changing the date!!!"

Nobody warned him that we have a different calendar, a solar-lunar calendar. Nobody had given him a copy of the Hebrew calendar. Poor man had no way to comply.

As for us, we're constantly swimming upstream just from having such a different calendar--& a different "sabbath" (although Shabbat is far more than a mere "sabbath").

Then if you throw in kashrut & how we can't eat with non-Jews...! It's difficult, living in the wide world. Reply

Anonymous September 16, 2016

b"H

As I become more religious I notice how hard it is to be different, when it comes to religion. Jews do things a certain way, and it is different. That doesn't mean that every time we are made to feel uncomfortable it is about hatred or malice - although of course it can be. When things flip to the scary, goblin side of difference is when people resent us or attack us (verbally or physically) for not fitting in. Being different can be good, though - like ear-shaped cookies filled with poppy seed filling or fruit. Reply

Stephen Kansas City September 8, 2016

If they are made with fruit they are Ha-fruit-taschen.

If you want real ha-mohn-taschen you want them made with Mohn.

Poppyseed filling. Yum. Reply

Esther Nyc September 8, 2016

Thank you for putting this in such a positive and simple light. Brought me great comfort! Reply

Scott Sioux Falls November 1, 2015

I enjoyed this article. It's a great reminder and a great response to people who are concerned. Thanks. Reply

Jon Dabach West Hills, CA October 30, 2015

I will say though that the best time to buy your Purim costumes is the day after Halloween. All the temporary costume shops that pop up in September liquidate their inventory on November first. Reply

Anonymous October 30, 2015

most children and even adults do not think of Halloween and associate it with religion, only with a fun time and dressing up. I guess its all in how you see it. Reply

Chuck Ross Bradenton, Fl. October 30, 2015

I love Purim, the Magilah, the noise-makers, the hamentaschen (I want da' apricot), the giving; all of it.

I also love da' Halloween, da' costumes, da' giving & getting, da' candies (I especially love da' MelloCreme Poompkins and Candy Corn), and all of that shtuff.

So, I'm going with Do-It-All; embrace da' LOVE! Reply

Cappi Lucas California October 30, 2015

I wish that JewIsh people would do that. It is a beautiful thing..I never realized that was done. Thank You for opening my eyes about giving if not food or money but to give my time
Thank you Reply

Lynnette Adelaide, Australia October 30, 2015

Thanks for the insight. Reply

Beth McKeesport October 30, 2015

Outstanding article and VERY true! Baruch HaShem! Reply

Anonymous October 29, 2015

What a terrible argument this article makes. It's not a Jewish holiday. That's all. We don't have to turn it into a competition of whos holiday is better than who's. We also don't have to make ourselves look better by putting other cultures, communities, religions, down. It doesn't matter that we have a similar or comparable holiday to "compete". That has little to do with whether or not we should celebrate any holiday. Purim is Purim and Halloween is Halloween. Reply

Anonymous October 29, 2015

I agree that Halloween is based in demons and Purim is so much fun and has a great teaching message but when you live in such a secular society and go to school or live on the same streets as your friends who go trick or treating it is hard to say no to your child I think this could sour a child on judaism Reply

Lisa Rosenstein. Nyc. October 29, 2015

While I don't think that Jewish children need to be trick or treating, I do not think it necessary to compare Halloween to Purim. The reason to choose to not celebrate Hallowren is not because we have a more virtuous holiday. It is not about comparing and elevating one over the other. Purim is not the alternative to Halloween. Purim is its own meaningful and unique celebration of a victory for peace and the right for all people to live their own religious and other beliefs side by side. We are not better or more Righteous than anyone else, nor are our holidays. I will happily open my door to any smiling child, as I do for Elijah on Passover and as I hope any person, Jewish, or not, would open their door for my child. Reply

Rodrigo NJ October 29, 2015

That was great! Just amazing
Thanks for that answer Reply

Anonymous II Richmond Hill October 29, 2015

It's like: oh, you shouldn't eat challa on Shabath, since that's chametz on Pesach. What's the connection?! We celebrate Purim, because we are Jews, and we participate in Halloween, because we chose to leave in Northern America and that's what they do here. Why would you claim that I'm sending 2 conflict messages to my kids, when I'm sending them only one, and it's when I tell them about Purim, Megilat Ester, Mishloach Manot etc. I tell them nil about Halloween, I only allow them to ware a costume and trick-or-treating, so I hardly call it a message. Reply