Jewish Halloween?

A reader sent me in this question:

Question: We just bought a sukkah for the first time in our lives and enjoyed the holiday. We go to temple every Saturday for services. Yet we still decorate for Halloween and go trick or treating {We are not kosher} My orthodox friends say this is hypocritical and I am giving my children a mixed message. I have always looked upon Halloween as being a fun holiday. What is the Jewish viewpoint on Halloween? I need to know the answer. Thank you.

Answer:

Mazel tov on your new acquisition! May you enjoy many happy years in that Sukkah! Sukkos has the unique element of bestowing holiness upon the Jews by virtue of a Mitzvah that surrounds us. Most Mitzvos are things we do, and when we do them, we personally manipulate holiness. The Sukkah surrounds us, and envelops us in its special spiritual warmth, and we thus manipulate holiness by doing things in the Sukkah, instead of to or with the Sukkah.

Halloween, however, has no such warmth or spirituality for a Jew. Quite the contrary, it can actually take away spirituality and holiness from a Jew. Part of this is because it is forbidden for us to adopt non-Jewish holidays. But that's not the only reason. Halloween has many elements in it that are simply wrong and contrary to Jewish values.

Before I discuss those, however, let me first suggest an alternative.

Purim is a holiday with a lot more fun in it than Halloween. Not only that, but on Purim we wear disguises and give gifts of food to friends and gifts of money and/or food to poor people.

In keeping Purim, you would be teaching your children a number of important lessons, such as the greater goodness of giving rather than demanding, and also the main lesson of Purim, which is that G-d helps people "anonymously," that is, while G-d remains behind the scenes. (See my articles at our Purim Gateway for an explanation of this concept.)

On Halloween people take -- in fact demand -- sweets from strangers. This alone is certainly not a good thing to be teaching children, not to mention that Judaism forbids such a practice. It is also considered terrible behavior.

Besides, there are also the pagan and christian concepts involved in Halloween.

Halloween is said to have originated as a Druids' holiday at the harvest season. They would light large bonfires to ward away evil spirits.

The Celts believed that Halloween was a good day to examine the future by means of magical practices. Magical practices are forbidden by the Torah whether or not they work. (Magic tricks done by sleight of hand are permitted, unless used to dupe or manipulate someone.)

So Halloween was a pagan holiday celebrated in Great Britain quite a long time ago, probably a thousand years before christianity existed.

When the Romans conquered Britain, they added some things to Halloween. Since it was also a harvest festival, they added the worship of Pomona, the "goddess of fruits and trees." Idolatry, as you know, is one of the three worst sins.

According to Wikipedia (admittedly often an unreliable source):

Halloween or Hallowe'en (... a contraction of "All Hallows' Evening"), also known as All Hallows' Eve, is a yearly celebration observed in a number of countries on October 31, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows' Day. It initiates the triduum of Hallowmas, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed believers.

According to many scholars, All Hallows' Eve is a Christianized feast initially influenced by Celtic harvest festivals, with possible pagan roots, particularly the Gaelic Samhain. Other academics maintain that it originated independently of Samhain and has solely Christian roots.

According to the Catholic Online Encyclopedia, the day following Halloween is known as All Saints' Day, followed by All Souls' Day, and those are indeed Christian holidays.

So, as you see, there is nothing about Halloween that has anything to do with any Jewish sentiments. Just about every aspect of it is forbidden by Jewish Law!

Again, consider keeping Purim instead. Jews have no need to celebrate Gentile holidays. Ours have so much more meaning and joy to us.

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