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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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Discussion (325)
November 1, 2016
Although some of the costumes are pretty creative. Like the girl who dressed as Optimus Prime with Amazon Prime boxes.
Sam
November 1, 2016
To Anonymous, who points out that Muslims have a lunar calendar
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".
Abraham
Tulsa
October 31, 2016
For Brother Daniel in the last comment
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.
Anonymous
Reston, VA
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...
Anonymous
Sharon, MA
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.
Daniel
Houston, Tx
September 16, 2016
Grown Ups Worry too!
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.
Anonymous
September 8, 2016
Hamentashen are Ha-mohn-taschen and Mohn means
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.
Stephen
Kansas City
September 8, 2016
Thank you
Thank you for putting this in such a positive and simple light. Brought me great comfort!
Esther
Nyc
November 1, 2015
Great response!
I enjoyed this article. It's a great reminder and a great response to people who are concerned. Thanks.
Scott
Sioux Falls
October 30, 2015
What Halloween is good for...
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.
Jon Dabach
West Hills, CA