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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.
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Discussion (260)
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
November 17, 2013
"Danger" is in the healthy food. Candy is safe(r)
Razor blades have only been found in fruit, not in candy. All but two cases involving candy were eventually traced to the victims' own family members, and none involved razor blades.

There is a reason the police open up their facilities to X-ray the candies your children collect: it's to make sure you didn't do something to it yourself (and so that if you do something to it later, they will know that).

There were two cases involving dangerous candy received from strangers, but both of those began with children being harmed by their own families, which then took advantage of the paranoia surrounding Halloween candy to give other children trace amounts of what their child had ingested, so that it would appear that their child was also a victim of a stranger. FDR's saying "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself" is usually a metaphor, but it's literally true in this case: The only 2 actual cases of dangerous candy were both caused by publicity surrounding the supposed danger.
Anonymous
Camarillo, CA, USA
chabadcamarillo.com
October 31, 2013
Purim and Halloween
How can you teach Purim without the death themes involved? That would mean not eating hamantashen and not making noise during the megillah reading.
Randy Farb
Flint, MI
October 29, 2013
Halloween is one of the more dangerous...
One of the more dangerous holidays physically and psychologically. Hunting for easter eggs is silly, but not damaging. Both Christmas and Easter traditional celebrations do teach "getting" (to make you happy) and giving out of a sense of requirement, not love. All three holidays usually have an abundance of high-fat, high in sugar, low in nutrition foods, but only Halloween has those items with razor blades inserted to harm children. There is a reason the police open up their facilities to X-ray the candies your children collect. Harmless? I think not!!!
Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell
Riverside, CA, USA
jewishriverside.com
October 28, 2013
Trick or treat
Are people aware that the meaning of trick or treat is, "give me a treat or I will vandalize your house eggs, toilet paper or worse)? When I was a kid, before I knew anything about Judaism, trick or treating was fun. The scary, hokey fun of ghosts, graveyards and vampires was just fantasy. Now that we live in a violence obsessed society where mass murder is pretty commonplace, I'm not sure it's all so funny anymore. I don't think it's healthy for anyone to observe it in any way. On Purim the focus in on giving. We give gifts to bring Jews closer together. We don't pay homage to the dead, we thank G-d for a miraculous salvation brought through human effort. That's what I want to teach my kids!
Mindy
Far Rockaway
October 24, 2013
Halloween
When did this become a religious issue? I know no one who thinks of it that way. This is much ado about nothing. Stick with important issues-this is not one of them.
Lois
Ponte Vedra Beach, Fl
chabadbeaches.com
January 12, 2013
Halloween
Halloween is an obsession with death & demons. All you have to do is ride around and look at all the images in peoples yards. How anyone could think this is wholesome and helpful for children is beyond me.
Steve
Hopewell, VA
October 31, 2012
The way Halloween is celebrated here, it's simply an American custom. It may have various religious roots, but at this point these are quite lost on children, and on adults too unless they're looking for them. If you want to raise your kids with strictly Jewish customs, make aliyah and raise your kids in Israel. If you're living here, you're participating in American life and that includes harmless (and fun) American customs, like Halloween, which if done well is a pleasant way for children and their accompanying parents to go around meeting and greeting their neighbors. My parents let us participate in Halloween. My brother and I grew up to be very deeply connected and identified Jews. We associated Judaism with positive things, not deprivation. A lot of the kids we grew up with, whose parents were more constricting of them in the name of Judaism, left the faith altogether as adults.
Gaye Fadraye
Roslyn Heights, NY
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