Halloween with a Jewish Twist

Halloween pumpkins

Halloween is the second biggest holiday in America according to KCBS News. Did you know that? I sure didn’t. Yes, I’ve noticed that Halloween has become dramatically more marketable than it was when I was a kid, or even when my own kids were little. Costumes are no longer homemade – with the hobo costume, your dad’s work shirt and some charcoal smudges on your face, being the easiest. Gone are the paper bags, left over from grocery shopping. Now you can buy it all – costumes of all shapes and sizes, yard and house decorations, candy of all sorts, pre-shaped jack o’lantern cake pans, you name it. What does KCBS mean by “second biggest holiday in America”? They mean it generates a huge amount of money. Second only to… well, you know.

On the Jewish calendar we are in the quiet period of no holidays, other than Shabbat, from Simchat Torah to Chanukkah. For American Jews this period may include Halloween and most likely does include Thanksgiving.

What is Halloween? It is Christianity, really Catholicism, absorbing a Pagan holiday. It’s origin is All Hallows Eve.

For the rabbis this has clear and strong Christian and Pagan meanings. So in traditional Jewish homes there would not be a Halloween observance. Many people, Jewish or Christian or atheist, don’t resonate to the religiosity of the holiday and just like it for the candy and dressing up.

Live a life of intention
My first suggestion is that rather than tossing aside the meaning of the holiday and just jumping into the candy, live intentionally.

Learn about the holiday. It has things to teach us about our culture and the cultures of others.

Make a conscious decision to do, or not do, Halloween in your family. Don’t do Halloween “because everybody does.” That’s never a good reason and you don’t want to teach it to your children.

Consider adding Jewish elements to the holiday. Check out these two useful articles here and here for good ideas.

There are Challah-ween events going on around the bay. Here’s an example of one, it was put on by Urban Adamah.

Of course, be safe, be sure that any costumes worn by your children allow for ease of movement and sufficient warmth. Have your kids bring their candy home to show you before then eat it. It is unlikely that there will be anything bad among the goodies but there’s no harm is being sure. Plus, you should monitor the sugar consumption since you probably want them to go to bed without a stomachache.

I wish you a wonderful end of October; don’t forget to have something pumpkin flavored – ice cream, muffins, something!