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Kids Zone

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.
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Discussion (267)
July 31, 2014
Beautiful, Rabbi Freeman.

Teach both.
Embrace both.
Understand both.

Choose wisely.

Thank you.
David
The Deep Backwoods
July 29, 2014
To Errol
I think you are fine. The rabbi may agree or not, but it seems to me that this falls under the category of things Jews do "for the sake of peace" between ourselves and our non-Jewish friends and neighbors. It's a mitzvah to promote peace.

So my thought its, By all means, hand out candy or pennies or whatever you deem appropriate to the children in your neighborhood who ring your doorbell or knock on your door calling "Trick or treat!" .
Chaim
Indianapolis
July 28, 2014
HALLOWEEN
I would like to add to my earlier response to Chaim. I now agree with you and the Rabbi that we should not celebrate holidays with Christian origins. However, in an effort to remain a good neighbor, I will be compelled to hand out candy and money to the children of my Christian neighbors. Although my neighbors know I am Jewish, I fear that there will be a misunderstanding if I don't answer my door on Halloween. If I still lived in my Jewish dominated New York neighborhood, I probably could handle the matter differently with the support from others. Hopefully, my actions this Halloween will not be viewed as me celebrating Halloween, but instead as my way of helping others enjoy there holiday.
Errol Sperling
Falls Church, Va
July 28, 2014
HALLOWEEN
Chaim, thank you for your clarification of Rabbi Freeman's position. We as Jews (representing maybe 1 1/2% of the US population) should celebrate our religious holidays. This is a free country and we don't have to celebrate any holiday that don't jive with our beliefs. However, I never associated Halloween and Valentine's Day with Christianity. Certainly, I get it now and I thank you for that.
Errol Sperling
Falls Church, Va
July 28, 2014
Why would anyone want to do this? It is not funny. Not at all.
KarenJoyceChayaFradleKleinmanBell
jewishriverside.com
July 27, 2014
As a child I went trick or treat and so did my child.
The rabbi advocates celebrating Jewish holidays and abstaining from Christian or pagan holidays.

This is consistent with strict Jewish observance. It is not beating around the bush. It is an appeal to honor our differences while appreciating non-Jews. Celebrating Hallowe'en (All Hallows Eve, the night before All Saints Day) or celebrating St. Valentine's Day, could be seen on a par with celebrating Xmas or Easter. All holidays are fun, just as nonkosher food is delicious.

We do not have to be omniverous. We do not have to do EVERY fun thing that exists. Let the whole world celebrate Purim and mourn on Tisha bAv (which is coming up next week) before we advocate that we, a tiny minority, celebrate the whole world's holidays.
Chaim
Indianapolis
July 27, 2014
HALLOWEEN/PURIM
As a child I celebrated Purim and I looked forward to wearing a mask on Halloween. Along with my friends we went from house to house seeking treats and gelt from very accommodating neighbors. I have fond memories of those times and I always felt Halloween was a joyous event for children. The holiday has nothing to do with religion. I don't agree with Rabbi Freeman's view of children or his comparison to Purim to explain why Jewish children do not celebrate Halloween. His answer is a cop-out and I would have loved to have read an honest response from the Rabbi, rather than him beating around the bush. Obviously, he and his children do not live in the real world. If the children of his community were exposed to the larger community, they would cry out the desire to go trick or treating with the other children.
Errol Sperling
Falls Church, VA
November 17, 2013
Purim
Does not pay homage to death.
It celebrates our escape from death.

Big difference.

On the Day of the Dead (same date as Hallowe'en) people picnic on graves.

If I now had a child and s/he wanted to go trick or treat, I'd see that the neighbor children went with them, and I and the neighbor parents would also go, and I would monitor the "treats" they received.

When I was little, and even when my child was little, everybody went. But I hardly saw anybody trick or treating in my (Jewish/gentile mixed) neighborhood this year.
Anonymous
Houston
November 17, 2013
Halloween
Halloween is pure silly fun. Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to get a life. There are so many serious issues today that far outstrip candy bars and goofy costumes. Gimme a break!
Michael Garin
NY, NY
jewishharlem.com
November 17, 2013
This is actually a High Holy Day for...
Wiccans. For real. They do 'spells" on this day and celebrate it joyously. For those not familiar with the term, it means "Witches" and witchcraft.
Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell
Riverside, CA, USA
jewishriverside.com
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