Our little street in Newton Corner, right off the Mass Pike, has become a must go Halloween spot. Last year we went through over 30lbs of various goodies. This year I’m expecting even more trick or treaters.
I’ve always loved Halloween. Collecting candy at night with friends, laughing, and having a great time: what could be better? It’s a wonderful American secular tradition, one I have always participated in. Now, to be perfectly honest, I don’t like wearing costumes. I don’t know why that’s the case. Maybe it’s the squeamish little boy in me who also hates to dance. But I love looking at the kids, and the occasional matching parent in full regalia when they come to the door for candy.
Given Halloween’s thoroughly secular character, it’s always surprised me that there are Jews who believe Halloween to be a treif (unkosher) day. As it says on the website kveller.com:
“ To many, if not most, American Jewish parents, participating in Halloween revelries is considered harmless fun. Increasingly, however, rabbis and educators have challenged Jewish participation in Halloween activities. To be fair, the holiday does have pagan origins, and it was later adopted by the Catholic Church. So it is understandable why some Jews would be tepid about celebrating a religious holiday that was never their own.”
First of all, I would challenge the assertion that rabbis and Jewish educators have stepped up anti-Halloween rhetoric. I would bet that most Jewish professionals have no real problem with Halloween.
Second of all, for Jews to ban something because of its pagan origins seems ludicrous at best. Do you really think a lulav and an Etrog are not ancient pagan symbols of fertility? That the Urim and the Thummim, divination stones used by the priests, do not predate the First Temple? Acknowledging the pagan roots of a particular practice or custom is not idolatry if it has no current currency as a pagan ritual symbol.
Third, and most importantly: Contrary to Kveller’s assertion, Halloween is not a religious holiday! It’s only about having a good time. Period. There’s no religious imagery or content: Unless you worship sugar.
The Chabad website suggests “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!”
I would remind the author of that paragraph that Purim hardly shines a light of virtue and goodness. Remember the abiding obligation of Purim is to get drunk! Offering Purim as a substitute is a rather paltry offering. Purim is a Jewish holiday. Halloween is not a religious holiday for anyone.
As I advised last year, get out there and enjoy! With all of the trouble and pain and fear in the world, how nice to have a fun set of customs to share with others.