Can a Nice Jewish Family Celebrate Halloween?

October 30, 2019
Photo by PxHere

If you think Halloween is spooky, you should see what’s lurking in Jewish liturgy! Evil eyes, spirits of fallen angels and even perhaps the first witch, Lilith. Ghoulish crossover aside, many Jewish families don’t celebrate Halloween because of its Pagan origins, it seems to fall in between Christmas (definitely don’t celebrate) and Valentine’s Day (it’s ok to get a card but don’t mention Saint Valentine). 

I tend to view Halloween as the only true neighborly holiday on the American calendar and one that epitomizes good old-fashioned Americana culture. Strangers open their doors to people they can hardly even see, let alone recognize, to give them candy without asking anything in return. Each year I’m more and more surprised that people are still willing to do this. It’s like for a few hours one night a year everyone decides to be part of a trusting and welcoming society. Well, all except those who turn off their lights and pretend they’re not home…

This is why I’m of the strong opinion that it’s important for Jewish families to participate in Halloween. I want people to know that my home has a mezuzah outside and that means a nice normal family lives inside. Of course, there are many other ways to be neighborly and I do understand that for some Jewish families it truly is against their beliefs to celebrate Halloween. For so many of us though, it’s more like an unspoken reality. We dare not mention it in our Jewish schools or synagogue but we know what everyone’s doing Thursday night!

I think handing out candy and carving pumpkins doesn’t equate to believing in ghosts and definitely not in making idols of them. Celebrating Fall is an inherently Jewish custom, the harvest season is at the heart of our Sukkot festival. So maybe this year, to increase your trick-or-treaters Jewish knowledge, you can decorate your house with: the ghost of Tevye’s dream, or the ayin ha’rah above your door! You may also look at the Target Dollar Spot to see if they have anything you can fashion into ‘Lot’s wife as a pillar of salt’. And if you really want to go Biblically scary, just put a giant evil snake tempting your visitors to eat from the apple tree! 

As a Jewish mom, I take my responsibility for drawing the proverbial line very seriously. My three year old asked me what a ghost was the other day and I quickly answered that they were ‘spooky things’ (because how do you explain the un-dead to a preschooler?), but when he asked me about witches I had an answer for that! I told him that some people believe that you can make things happen by stirring potions into a big boiling pot, but as a Jewish family, we don’t think that’s true. We believe you can only make things happen by doing them yourself. I told him what my rabbis have always taught me, that God gave us the most magical power of all – we can make good or bad things happen just by being ourselves. 

So if you’re like me and you’re feeling that annual tinge of Halloween/Jewish guilt I hope we can resolve to relax a little and to have a Happy (Kosher candy) Halloween!

Marion Haberman is a writer and content creator for her YouTube/MyJewishMommyLifechannel and Instagram @MyJewishMommyLife page where she shares her experience living a meaning-FULL Jewish family life. Haberman is currently writing a book on Judaism and pregnancy titled ‘Expecting Jewish!’ to be released Winter 2019. She is also a professional social media consultant and web and television writer for Discovery Channel, NOAA and NatGeoand has an MBA from Georgetown University.

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