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?
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!