Halloween and the Jews

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Should Halloween be taboo in the Jewish community as a whole, and the Orthodox community in particular?

In my mind there is one simple answer: No.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I did grow up trick-or-treating (in groups with other Jewish kids). It was a really great thing to get excited about in the abyss between the High Holidays and Chanukah. But to be clear, I was NOT celebrating Halloween. I was participating in the American ritual of dressing up on the night of October 31, and begging for candy at the front door of my neighbors (or the richer community we would sometimes drive to).

Trick-or-treating on Halloween has a very interesting history – at least according to Wikipedia – but the form it has taken on today is completely secular. There is not religious connection to the current manifestation of Halloween, and children of all races, religions, and ethnicities participate in this beautiful example of America as the mixing bowl.

Halloween is no more or less antithetical to Judaism than Thanksgiving, the 4th of July and New Year’s Eve. Some in the Orthodox Jewish community  avoid those last three as well, but we’re not them. Why has this fear of trick-or-treating persisted over so many years?

Was it antisemitic acts that may have taken place during a time when Halloween was also know for mischief and pranks? Perhaps. Was it a general perception of the holiday as being a celebration of the devil? Perhaps that was it as well. Regardless of these outdated reasons, why can’t we just let the kids have fun?

I am not advocating that Jewish schools start having Halloween costume parades or other themed events, but as a community I think we should allow Jewish children to just have fun like everyone else!

Happy Halloween!

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4 thoughts on “Halloween and the Jews

  1. Are you series?

    First and foremost, the presumptuousness that you display on this blog is appalling.

    You write: “Halloween is no more or less antithetical to Judaism than Thanksgiving, the 4th of July and New Year’s Eve. Some in the Orthodox Jewish community avoid those last three as well, but we’re not them.”

    Why would you say a day named “All Saint’s Day” is as antithetical to Judaism as July 4th? In what do you base this? Thanksgiving and July 4th have no religious undertones and I think they are in a totally different category than Halloween.

    More generally though, you see to have an agenda that Jews should blindly embrace any culture just because it’s there. What value is there in embracing Halloween in the first place?

  2. Aaron

    Let’s talk about Valentine’s Day or – as some would emphasize – SAINT Valentines Day.

    February 14 was one of 11 days recognized by the Catholic Church as a Valentines day. Valentine was the name of numerous early Christian martyrs. There was no romantic element to these Valentines, or February 14.

    There is some debate on the matter, but it seems Chaucer was the first one to connect Valentines Day with romance. In a poem, he referenced Valentines Day as being the time when birds begin their mating season.

    While the accuracy of that statement is up for debate, from that time forward February 14 was a day that focused on romance (possibly due to the beginning of the thaw of winter?)

    Valentines Day in America is about expressing your love/affection to someone. It has nothing to do with the Valentine martyrs, and is a completely secular holiday.

    This secular country was founded by immigrants from a wide variety of backgrounds. They brought traditions from their countries, but they quickly became secularized. Christmas and Chanukah are good examples of the holidays that retained their religious significance, but Valentines Day and Halloween are innocent.

  3. Are You Serious

    Bringing Valetine’s day to prove your point is circular logic.

    Why should we celebrate Valentine’s day either?

    If you want to express your love for a spouse, why not do so in a way rooted in Torah and Mitzvot?

    Judaism is rich enough that we need not look to the Christian culture (let alone religion) to help us express our feelings.

    This is completely putting aside any Halakhic issues of Chukot HaGoyim that might arise, because it’s clear that you don’t consider this a concern – though I’m not sure where you get the authority to do this.

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