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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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Chuck Ross Bradenton, Fl. 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! Reply

Gina Bergman Soputh Afridca 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 Reply

james cooley Kansas city.Ks 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 Reply

Cynthia D. Grand Rapids, MI 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. Reply

Ari Clermont, Fl 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. Reply

ester italy 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. Reply

C. Eliana Azoulay Denver, CO 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! Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma 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. Reply

C. Eliana Azoulay Denver, CO October 28, 2012

Halloween 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. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma 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. Reply

Annette Chicago, IL October 27, 2012

I'm a christian and how you explain this specific day is so to the point. This day is a celebration of darknes and not of light and life. I too, will explain to my family and friends that this day goes against my judeo-christian values. Thank You. Reply

Anonymous Brooklyn October 22, 2012

I grew up with non-Jewish neighbors. My Jewish friends and I would work hard to prepare and package food gifts to give out to others on Purim, in our sparkly Queen Esther costumes. My non-Jewish friends would knock on doors demanding food gifts (it's either you give us a "treat" or we might play on you a "trick") from others on Halloween, in their horrific frightening black cobwebbed witch costumes. We Jewish children knew very well why we were giving out food gifts on Purim! The non-Jewish children had no clue why they were keeping Halloween. No clue. Not one of them, and I asked all of the kids on my block. I was just curious. They didn't know. I wasn't even tempted. To the questioner: I'll bet if you bought your child the candy, s/he would be ready to skip the trick-or-treating. And keep the peace with your husband, if you really love your child. Reply

Montreal Mom Canada October 22, 2012

Halloween is what you make it Halloween doesn't have to be all doom & gloom & ghouls & monsters. For most kids (myself included when I was a child) Halloween is a time to celebrate just being a kid- and being allowed to let your imagination run wild, and have the joy of one night where you are indulged in an adult world. My daughter is dressing up as a butterfly, and she is giddy at the thought that with a simple knock on the door to the homes of friends and neighbors, they are happily obliged to shower her with candy and treats. Imagine! To make the choice to deny this culturally important ritual of childhood is to set your child apart from their friends and schoolmates, and make them feel an outsider. Surely is you raise your child with a strong Jewish identity in the first place, they can have fun with a secular festival, rather than be made to feel like a cultural tourist looking from the outside in. Reply

Marja van Dijk HOUTEN - NL October 22, 2012

halloween I am Christian, and I agree very much with Rachel in this matter. Here in the Netherlands it is not as much celebrated as in U.S.A. but it is coming more and more. I hate this festival it seems to be associated mostly with death, witches, spirits and other evil, just looking at how people dress their kids. I think Torah tells, to stay away from these things. (see Demarim 18 : 10-12 in my Bible) How do we teach our children to do that, when we make it a game? Reply

Catherine ny October 21, 2012

I think children should know about the scary part of life. Halloween gives them a chance to experience it without trauma. They can experience the concept of conquering fears in a good way. Wearing costumes can be fun because it gives them a chance to be someone else and know what it might be like to not be themselves. Its all in fun. It also teaches not everything is what it seems look beyond the costumes and find what is underneath. We are not living in the middle ages any more. I think we should be more concerned with stopping drug use or childabuse. Halloween is great fun for all ages. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma February 24, 2012

what is sweet for one differs for another. I don't see why we Jews need to legislate love and how it is expressed for others, and even for us. I am Jewish and love this holiday. And I think maybe there is some relevance coming back to this, as in Purim, a holiday that re enacts a story and everyone can be Queen, or the bad guy, of the good guy, and it's all sheer fun,and also about dress up. And sweet too, as in Hamentaschen.

I think people should learn to let up a bit on the control side and enjoy life's infinite and wonderful diversity. I love learning about others. I love Kwanza, and lights, and delight in other cultural festivities, and I also love to dance. This is a dance Join the dance or be on the side lines but do not sideline others who are having such JOY, such fun.

The same G_d created these holidays, these holding days, and the same G_d inhabits the lives of others, not Jews.

And this, is a Jewish time for JOY, or so I read, on Chabad right now. Reply

Anonymous Georgia February 23, 2012

Halloween Some temples/churches/schools have Harvest Festivals so why not take them to one of those instead of letting them parade the streets and ask for candy? Reply

Anonymous November 26, 2011

such a great article im a moslem and find this article educational! Reply

Anonymous Madison, Wi November 1, 2017
in response to Anonymous:

Tell all your friends. Spread the positive about Jews and our beliefs. Thank you. Wishing you all the best. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma November 25, 2011

Childhood's Joys All I can say is that I personally derive such joy from this Holiday, and I think, so do the children. We are all made differently and this means we take from life, absorbing what we do of information, of experience, in vastly different ways. Put two people together and have them witness anything, and their reports will be often very different. This is why we have learned to interview many when it comes to a crime scene. We are all "filter" feeders, and it seems consciousness is very different for us all. Even in thinking about a scene that is familiar, as in one's own backyard. Can you draw in your mind, every tree? What do you notice and what not notice?

I can see incredible congruence in a room in terms of dress for example, and others will not notice at all until this is pointed out. So somehow my attention or consciousness must differ, but it is so with everyone, and that's how we learn from each other, take and discard what works for each of us.

I love this holiday! Magical. Reply

B. K. Los Angeles, California November 22, 2011

Where do you get your statistics? I'm totally anti-Halloween, but all the "satanic ritual slaughter" business has been debunked for years. Ditto the "razor blades in candy" stories. Most of these rumors are little more than urban legends. Some were circulated intentionally by certain Christian groups (I remember being handed anti-Satanist "comic books" by missionaries as a kid).

While many cities report a serious increase in vandalism on Halloween, others report an overall decrease in crime. This is generally attributed to there being so many people out and about (too many potential witnesses to any crime a perpetrator might want to commit).

There are plenty of reasons to abstain from Halloween without veering away from facts. Reply