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Halloween Tradition?

Halloween Tradition?


Dear Rachel,

I grew up in Israel and my husband is American. While I wasn’t really raised in an observant home, until coming to America, I had never really heard of Halloween and from my understanding, it has its origins in Paganism. My husband keeps telling me that it is American tradition and that there is nothing wrong with our six-year-old trick or treating, but something just doesn’t feel right. I think the whole holiday is weird and I don’t want my child dressed up as a skeleton and going to stranger’s homes. Am I overreacting?

New Jersey

Dear J.P.,

I could not agree with you more. Halloween is something I also cannot comprehend, and that is aside from the clear origins in Paganism. Even if you argue that there are no longer direct connections to that, and that it is a mainstream, irreligious holiday, the question still remains if it is appropriate for a Jewish child, and I would even further argue the question as to whether or not it is appropriate for any child.

You have hit a raw nerve here as every year I watch my neighborhood decorate its lawns with gravestones, skeletons, ghosts and goblins and I question why the well-to-do, educated and nice-mannered people that live here find that it is appropriate to celebrate death and gore with children and toddlers.

While your question is clearly a parenting one, allow me to spend one more minute furthering this idea, as it may help you in your discussion with your husband. I think in general that we accept certain things in our society simply because they were “always” this way. And for most people who were raised in the States, dressing up for Halloween is something that was just “always” done. Yet the fact that we were raised with it, doesn’t necessarily make it right.

Being that you were raised in Israel, you are not accustomed to this. So from your perspective, as an outsider, you really do see it for what it is. And what is it? It is a holiday designed to make lots and lots of money for commercial retailers at the expense of our children. How many parents have actually discussed death with their three to ten-year-olds? And even those who have, who wants to make the child terribly fearful of death or to think of death as something filled with blood and gore? And yet, these same parents will find it cute when their child wears a costume of a monster with a knife stuck in its forehead.

OK, all of that said, what should you do? Well, it is clear that I agree that you have substantial reasons for not wanting your child to participate in this. The question is, your husband clearly feels differently. I think for starters you should sit and discuss what it is that bothers you about this holiday (hopefully the above will give you some good starting points.) You may also want to throw in demanding candy from strangers, and taking candy from strangers are the exact opposite of what you have most likely taught your child, and that you are not comfortable with him being a part of this. Now, you have not mentioned what your child thinks about this and if he is excited to go out with his daddy and trick or treat or if he is still too young to really care. But like anything, you cannot take something “fun” away unless you are able to replace it with something else.

I would speak to your husband and let him know that you would like to do something else fun and exciting on that day (or that night.) Figure out something together that you will all enjoy and that will not make your son, or your husband for that matter, feel that they are missing out.

Remember that this is not so much about who is right and who is wrong but more about how to handle any situation where two parents disagree as to what is in the best interest of the child. There may be times when you find something to be totally innocuous and your husband finds it dangerous or inappropriate. What is most important is that you are both clearly concerned with the well-being of your child, and when you realize that, then if something is really bothering one parent, it is rarely worth pursuing it, especially when it involves something quite unimportant.

So I wish you much luck in broaching the topic with your husband and letting him see how you view Halloween through your eyes. Explain to him that this holiday really goes against your values and that you don’t want your son exposed to what this holiday revels in. Hopefully your husband will understand your concern and even if he doesn’t agree with you, he will agree to do something else as a family that night. And your best bet is to have some alternatives in mind before beginning the discussion.

At the end of the day, if he is upset that he can’t sport the great costume he had in mind or the one he wanted for his son, let him know that Purim is not too far off, and that this holiday is one where not only do you get to dress in costume, but you actually give treats (in addition to receiving them) rather than taking them and the focus is on celebrating life, not death!


"Dear Rachel" is a bi-weekly column that is answered by a rotating group of experts. This question was answered by Sara Esther Crispe.

Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the Co-Director of Interinclusion, a non-profit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of and wrote the popular weekly blog, Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.
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Discussion (160)
September 9, 2016
Wowie zowie...
I can't wait for Halloween, you don't have to enjoy it, but I will; I grew-up with it.

The candy alone is worth the price of admission.

And there is certainly nothing wrong with Purim; I LOVE Purim!
Chuck Ross
Bradenton, Fl.
October 31, 2014
Jews do not have to copy the goyim. We now have a Channukah bush and they want Haloween. Choose which side you want to be on. In South Africa the children are starting to celebrate Haloween. Such a pity
Gina Bergman
Soputh Afridca
November 12, 2012
customs of the nations
customs of the nations ,as written should not be adopted!!-Ha-shem is wiser !!!than us/me/u. They[customs] are not the example to be followed,nor leaders of morality!! Jeremiah 10:2-5=the customs of the vain/can do no good.Of course going to the land also. LV18;3
james cooley
Kansas city.Ks
October 31, 2012
What you make it?
Montreal Mom, following your thought process Jews can then put up a Christmas tree or have an Easter Egg Hunt as long as we don't "make it" about what the majority of the world celebrates?!?!?! Jews have been called to lead the nations to light...not to follow them into the darkness.
Cynthia D.
Grand Rapids, MI
October 31, 2012
My little daughter say....
Both, my self and my wife born Jews, dont really religious people, bur now we have a daughter, everything change and we are teach her all about judaism. She is very proud to be a Jew. Last nigth she tell me, "daddy i dont want to go anyplace outside the house this wednesday; (my question Why ?)
She said... all this bad party will be everywhere and I Jews and I dont want to be a part.
Clermont, Fl
October 30, 2012
i have worked hard
to taught my children that we as a family simply don't do nothing special to feel this day. we don't want to have nothing to do any pagan or commercial opportunity and let me say, in my opinion the problem is not that it is "pagan", the problem is that it focuses on the dark side of our souls, where there's blood, and violence, and cruelty and a lot of things that needs one man or woman to be well grown up before to manage them without feeling hurt or misleaded. me as an adult, i can have to do with every dark side of our lives and build my own opinion and feelings, but our kids? our young children? what are they going to feel in front of it? how can i be sure that they can take it easy as i could? these are some of the reasons why we stay away from it, and last but not least also the "candies from a stranger" matter is important for us, i mean, i don't want to teach my kids that candies from strangers can be maybe funny.
October 29, 2012
I have taught all of my children that we do not participate in this particular religious holiday, (and it is a religious holiday), because it glorifies evil, death, darkness and spilt blood. This is a conflict to our neshama (soul) and is directly opposite of holy, life and light. King Solomon said that there is nothing new under the sun. If we choose to participate in the things that HaShem warns us as Jews not to participate in, I believe we run the risk of loosing sight of who we really are and what our true purpose is as a people!
C. Eliana Azoulay
Denver, CO
October 28, 2012
Greeting Cleopatra & her Ballerina Friends
Hallowe'en does not glorify death, evil, darkness and blood. What glorifies death, evil, darkness and blood are the acts of man, of inhumanity towards each other in what we call REAL time.

This is NOT Hallowe'en. And I would say stop reading the Biblical stories, as they are filled with this, and actually many people don't, because they wonder how it is, that a Book could be so about death, dying, and murder, and deceit . Did G_d write this script?

Sure we learn how not to be, from so many really very GRIM stories. Lessons.

HalloWEEn, child's play, has at its poetic base: compelling metaphors in Nature. Children's laughter is not demonic, it's beautiful, and the holiday is about the magic and creativity of let's pretend. And I love bats, spiders, and witches brew. And I love the sweet smiles that come to my door. Let there be Light. Even in the dark, as it's spooky and that is pure FUN. My welcoming sign says Come In For a Spell.

I LOVE this holiday, and I am quite Jewish.
ruth housman
marshfield hills, ma
October 28, 2012
I have taught all of my children that we do not particapate in this particular religious holiday, (and it is a religious holiday), because it glorifies evil, death, darkness and blood. This is a conflict to our neshama (soul) and is directly opposit of holy, life and light. I agree with some of the others who have suggested searching out a local harvest festival. The pressures have been very great on my children to follow the crowd, so I made sure to promise to take them every year to a harvest party somewhere. I would always follow through and they always had great fun.
C. Eliana Azoulay
Denver, CO
October 28, 2012
Magic and Dress Up just fun
I find it endlessly interesting how a holiday, that is so much about magic, and fun, becomes the source of endless iterations on line about how bad it is, and how many religious Jews and others, somehow equate a holiday that's pure fun for children and also adults as a bad thing and not in the spirit of their "faith".

I write a lot on line, and sometimes wonder, why bother, but every once in a while someone will say something to me, that makes me feel good, about contributing at all. And I will say, I think a good deal about ethical issues, and also this bigger picture, about what we're all doing here, and I happen to enjoy this holiday so much.

I grew up in the land of let's pretend, with fairy tales, and goblins, and magic, and two years in Sweden as a young girl with books and the lore of trolls and mushrooms in the woods, made me so filled with the joy of let's pretend, let's have some fun.

I look forward to those little pattering feet, the costumes, the fun, and much magic.
ruth housman
marshfield hills, ma