What’s a Nice Jewish Girl to do about Halloween?


Some of my neighbors really get into decorating for Halloween

My birthday falls in late October. I will not disclose my age, and those of you who know me know what that number is.  Unless a birthday is one that ends in a 0 or a 5, birthdays at this stage of life are no big deal.

But think back to when you were a kid.  Those were the days when one counted down the days to their birthday party.  And if you were lucky enough to be born on the cusp of the Scorpio sign, birthday parties were all about Halloween. Late October babies have a built-in costumed, candy-corn flavored theme that is perfectly gift wrapped with a giant fake spiderweb and grooves to the music of a Monster Mash soundtrack.

Each year, even up through high school, I celebrated my birthday with a costume party. On my seventh or eighth birthday, my grandmother transformed herself into a gypsy storyteller to the delight of all my costumed friends.   My parents and grandparents even staged special effects, complete with a charmed stuffed snake to rise out of a wicker basket with the help of an invisible fishing wire.

All through childhood, my mother and grandmother were the master costume makers. My mom said that when she was growing up in her Bensonhurst, Brooklyn apartment, my grandmother would dress up as a witch and concoct costumes for every kid in the building.

And when it was my turn to dress up, mom and grandma could make me into anything I wanted because they both knew their way around a sewing machine.  Pity my own children this time of year. I cook, I bake, I garden, I teach, I read Torah, but I cannot even decently hem a pair of pants.

I wanted to be a sunflower one year: mom made me a sunflower. And then scarecrow, and Indian Princess, and even a hairdryer. And my final Halloween birthday party, I made a really convincing Boy George.

Halloween birthday parties, trick-or-treating and getting candy went on happily and innocently until the seventh grade. That year, Halloween fell out on a Tuesday which was afternoon Hebrew School.

Hebrew School started at 4:30 and let out around 6 p.m.  Through Chumash (bible) lessons, you could feel the tension in the class start to bubble like a witch’s cauldron: we were missing out on prime trick-or-treating time! We realized that by the time we got home, scarfed down some dinner and put on our costumes, maybe we could collect half a pillowcase worth of candy if we were lucky. But we had a plan.

“Rabbi,” one of our classmates sweetly inquired, “Can we get out of Hebrew School early today so we can go trick-or-treating?”

Yeladim!” He shouted, saying the Hebrew word for children. “Jewish children should not celebrate Halloween. It is NOT a Jewish Holiday! If you want to dress up and have fun, we can do that later in the year, on Purim.”

In unison, the entire class gasped in disbelief. Up till this point, we were all completely unaware that Halloween could have other meanings besides dressing up, running around the neighborhood and getting candy. And, in the streets of Staten Island, we didn’t exactly live in a part of the world where Purim, a costume-filled Jewish holiday in the spring, was universally celebrated.

We were not deterred that night, or any year after, from our right as American kids to trick-or-treat. Okay, Halloween is not a Jewish holiday. In fact, I knew even back then that Halloween must have some Christian implications, because all the parochial school kids I knew in my neighborhood had off Nov. 1 for All Saint’s Day.

Halloween must be okay because my grandmother, the most Jewish lady I knew, still loved Halloween. One year, my grandparents went to Greenwich Village to see the famous Halloween parade.  My grandmother had a blast and made friends with everyone, including “all the nice young men dressed up in the most elaborate costumes” who offered her a chair along the parade route.

My Yiddishe grandma, the one who made gifilte fish from scratch and sang me Jewish songs,  found delight in hanging out in the Village with the drag queens on Halloween!

I always wanted to go into the Village for Halloween, but it wasn’t until my grandparents raved about it did I got the nerve to go to one of the best places in the country to celebrate on Oct. 31.

I spent two Halloweens in the Village in my 20’s, although I didn’t wear a costume. Then, out in San Francisco’s Castro district, I dressed as Mona Lisa in a frame and my beloved dressed as the Mad Hatter.  People sang “Mona Lisa” to me. A few people even got the Elton John reference and sang a few bars of that song with us.  The streets got crowded, and my frame did get entangled with other costumes, but it was all in good fun.

Those were some of the most memorable nights of my life.  More than the candy, as  young adult I saw Halloween as a time when people can express themselves and become someone else for just one night. Halloween costumes break down barriers between strangers.   But beneath the costumes and candy, the darker messages that lurk below are just plain not Jewish.

I still love Halloween and my heart is tied to the Halloween memories of my childhood. But Halloween has shifted lower on my priority list.

After a month of putting energies into the Jewish fall holidays I mentioned in a recent blog post, I have little desire to turn my front lawn into a graveyard or put together a costume with a hot glue gun.

But we still carve our pumpkin. And I still let my kids go trick-or-treating.  But they well understand and love that come spring, we will be busy making hamantashen cookies and baskets of food for friends and neighbors for the Jewish holiday of Purim. In that way, they learn that Purim, when you walk around the neighborhood giving treats, is in essence the exact opposite of Halloween’s tradition of going around the neighborhood begging for treats.

Am I sending my Jewish children mixed messages? Maybe. Will I someday, because of Jewish observance, let go of Halloween go altogether? Perhaps.

But in the meantime, it’s still fun to walk the neighborhood’s darkened streets, check out the glow in the dark decorations, and maybe get a little scared.

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About stacylynngittleman

I have been a reporter and public relations professional for over 30 years, specializing in profile features and investigative longform writing. During my career I've profiled WWII Honor Flight Veterans, artists and musicians and have written on topics that range from environmental and gun control issues to Jewish culture. Click around on my writing samples plus read my blog on my personal life raising three kids over 27 years and three cities.

104 responses to “What’s a Nice Jewish Girl to do about Halloween?”

  1. eileen says :

    How well I remember Grandma and Grandpa’s adventure to the The Village for Halloween. When we were in the cty to pick up Dad’s number for the Marathon,we stayed for the Parade. A once in a lifetime experience.Absolutely amazing.Thanks for reminding me of all my chersihed memories!


  2. Mikalee Byerman says :

    A nice balance seems appropriate, so good for you. And I’m totally with you: No sewing abilities at all. I rely on the neighborhood Target to dress my kids. Does this make me a bad mom? 😉


  3. The Simple Life of a Country Man's Wife says :

    Nice post! I just wrote about birthdays today. And in my post, I wrote about them being important, always. So Happy Birthday, whenever it is!


  4. thejamminjabber says :

    Halloween ain’t Xtian. Hardcore Xtians hate it just as much as crabby old Rabbis!


  5. thepaulw says :

    Hmm, as a Jew I never heard anything against Halloween. Interesting.


  6. runtobefit says :

    I love halloween!!! Who doesn’t love to dress up and be something else for one night! When I have children it will be one of their favortie holidays because they will see how much dad loves it. Well, they might hate it because I will be scaring them all the time.



  7. lifeintheboomerlane says :

    My family was observant (kosher, etc) but I don’t remember anyone ever saying anything negative about Halloween. Had they done that, it would just be one more item in a long list that, as an adult, I have chosen to ignore. Happy Halloween!


  8. bronxboy55 says :

    It’s definitely the strangest holiday of the year. But as far as its Catholic origins, they’ve been pretty much stripped away. It’s all about shock and candy now.

    Great post.

    Happy Birthday!


  9. violainthekitchen says :

    Most people are not celebrating dark gods or catholic rituals when observing Halloween. They are just collecting candy, dressing up in costumes and having fun with their community. It’s one of the holidays that is not being forced on everyone – one does not stand out if one does not participate. You can get as involved as you wish – turning your whole apartment into a haunted house, or just putting out an uncarved pumpkin, or even shutting off all the lights pretending not to be there so trick or treaters will skip your house, and everyone would be fine and happy either way. What matters is that you are happy.


    • transplantednorth says :

      this is true, but when you live in a religious neighbohood, and maybe I shouldn’t feel this way, but you are always being seen in the eyes of others, what you do, and how you observe. But while I am a bit confilcted about Halloween, I know that it’s mainly now about dressing up and having fun – and getting the candy. Thanks for reading!


  10. elysianhunter says :

    Halloween is not exactly a Christian observance either (though I still enjoy the costumes and the candy-giving, etc.) but for Protestant Christians, especially Lutherans, October 31 is the observance of Reformation Day. When my son was in middle school and going through Catechism (I am a Lutheran) the Catechism overnight retreat fell on October 31. We had the costume party complete with treats- but we also had a memorable lesson on Reformation Day. One of our Pastors dressed as Martin Luther and explained the 95 Theses and what Reformation Day means for us as Lutherans and in the context of the history of the entire Christian Church. The kids had a blast- but they also learned something.

    I believe that God has a purpose in every day and observances are what you make of them. If we learn to enjoy each other and appreciate God’s world even through observing a holiday such as Halloween that has some dark history, so be it. The primary purpose of humanity and command of God (for both Jews and Christians) can be found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength. We bring glory to our Creator when we love God and honor Him, whether we participate in holidays or observances or not. Celebrate God and His creation with others, out of love for Him, in all we do.


    • transplantednorth says :

      that quote from Deuteronomy, is part of the Shma, the central prayer in all of Judaism. Thanks for your response and thanks for reading. I am on top of the world today!!!!


  11. Ava Aston's Muckery says :

    I’m glad you let things like trick or treating still be part of your children’s childhoods. If latter in life they do not want to observe it, that is their choice. Look at all of the fond memories you have with your family on Halloween years past.

    Children are young for such a short time and part of being an adult later in life is being able to look back at silly stuff we all did as children.

    I say we should all let our inner silliness out on Halloween and on April Fool’s day! 🙂

    Great posting today, I enjoyed your trip down memory lane.




  12. joowita says :

    Im from Poland and when I was a child the Halloween looked totally different. No costumes, no scary decorations, no begging for sweets… For as it was a day when we were thinking about our relatives and friends who passed away. We went to cemetery in the night and put candles on the graves. It was time for memories, deep thought, reflection. It was sad day, but on the other hand it was a day when we felt that people, who are really important in our life will never disappear, even if they die, they will stay in our hearts and our minds!!!
    Nowadays, even this lovely tradition is changing. More and more young people prefer Halloween Party than spending time with family and go to cemetery.


  13. Rivki @ Life in the Married Lane says :

    Most in Metro New York can’t find many things west of the Hudson on a map (or so I hear). Living in Cleveland for the past few years, I can relate to the snow bit (I’m not looking forward to the upcoming winter months).

    Your post describes so clearly the conflict many Jews have with fond childhood memories of certain national celebrations and the understanding that those celebrations are, at the core, just not Jewish. It’s great that your kids will have the pleasure to celebrate Purim, which is, in my opinion, much more fun (and definitely less scary).

    Congrats on being FP!


  14. ohiolezgirlinnyc says :

    As a Jew-in-Training, I relish in Purim celebrations but only because they are new and exciting to me. I’d all but forgotten about the rucus that insues for Halloween until I moved to NYC 5 years ago and rememberd that the Holiday is definitely not just for the kiddies.

    In College I wrote a paper on the origins of Halloween and how many Christians, hoping to mask the very pagan roots of the the Holiday, attached All Saints Day to make it “okay” The fact is that All Hallows is a day when it is said that the veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead is the thinnest, it’s a time to remember and honor your deceased relatives as the Mexican tradition still does when they celebrate Day of the Dead. I don’t know how I’ll navigate Halloween when I raise my children but I’ll probably let them have their fun!

    I enjoyed reading this post and will be adding you to my blogroll!


  15. Katie Moore says :

    Intriguing… especially your second-to-the-last paragraph. Children grow up very, very quickly, and the window of opportunity closes in the blink of an eye. When and if you change your holiday observances, does it matter to you if your posterity does… or doesn’t? I’ve been contemplating a lot of the same questions.


    • transplantednorth says :

      I completely believe in making Jewish memories and moments for my kids AT HOME every day so when they grow up they will know who they are. I think that can apply to any religion. Thanks for reading!


  16. ambermartingale says :

    I remember a Jewish girl in my Head Start class when I lived in the San Diego suburb of Spring Valley. She had a lot of fun on Halloween, even thugh I didnlt know she was Jewish until she told me about Hannukah.


  17. Mike Raven says :

    Wonderful post! Thank you so much for taking on the topic.
    I’m teaching my 5 1/2 year old that there’s no such thing as ghosts, goblins, or monsters, that societies have created stories around these things to wield power over others, particularly poorer and less-educated people such as those in western and eastern Europe around whom folklore has proliferated for centuries.
    I’m teaching her that if we have fun on Halloween, we own those stories — they no longer have power over us.
    As a Yiddishe Papa with a full Yiddishe family, I can tell you that I can’t think of any more important lesson for our children than one based on the notion that it is our sacred duty to cut through the auras of myth and power structure. The history of the Jewish people has taught us that far from being overcome by what these stories symbolize, we must challenge it.
    We must own these stories and teach our kids what they really mean and symbolize so they, too, can preserve their intellectual, political, and social freedom.
    (And while we’re doing all this, if the kids want to nosh on a Snickers and dress up like Supergirl, who am I to stop them?)
    – Mike Raven


  18. stoptheinvasionoforegon says :

    american halloween is not a religious holiday for celts . so you should have no problem celebrating it.


  19. balloonanimals says :

    Isn’t it nice to have some one make your costume. We just buy our kids ones now.. Can’t sew


  20. Jack says :

    I feel Halloween gets a bad rap in many religious circles. I myself attended a Christian church and was forbidden to celebrate, being told that it was a satanic ritual. As I grew older I stumbled upon the origins of Halloween quite by accident as I was researching my Scottish heritage. So now every year I host a large cookout on Halloween; I encourage costumes, not because of tradition, but because they are fun and celebrate imagination.


  21. threadzofblue says :

    Fabulous post, I greatly enjoyed reading it. I too struggle with the tension between being Jewish and celebrating in those holidays that have become part of the fabric of American culture. It’s difficult, and everyone finds their own path through it.

    Love your blog.


  22. bmj2k says :

    Any religious connotations to Halloween are lost in the mists of time. Dressing up and Trick or Treating is no more Christian than it is Jewish or even pagan. It is a non-demoninational American holiday. As you are an American, you go right ahead and celebrate.


  23. Little Creek Veterinary Clinic says :

    Thank you for the post. As a Catholic, I never thought about Halloween from any other perspective. I learned something today. 🙂


  24. Moito says :

    I think I understand about what you mean when it comes to judaism. But I must say that Halloween was my favorite holiday when I was a kid, after passover. I guess that when the time comes for when I have kids and start a family, I guess that I would want them to celebrate more the jewish customs, but also be a part of those that bring happiness to them, as they did to me.


  25. thegeeman says :

    Halloween was cool as a kid. In New Jersey we had mischief night. The night before halloween the kids go out do stupid stuff. My brother and I had lots of fun. The candy is the best part of Halloween.


  26. notesfromrumbleycottage says :

    Love Halloween. I have never been to Greenwich village but I can almost image how much fun Halloween can be there.


  27. CrystalSpins says :

    Love, Love, Love Halloween…but I still don’t have a costume idea for this year. I might have to go as myself. The horror!



  28. Mel Cisum says :

    I am laregely agnostic, which presents a very similar problem being that I live in a conservative Christain family and neighborhood. I have a similar problem with Christmas. Though I don’t specifically feel a need to celebrate the birth of Christ anymore than any other great peace leader, I can’t help but adore the pagentry and the giving spirit of the Christmas holiday. Christians themsevles seem more wrapped up in Santa Claus than Jesus. When it comes to my children, I do my best to answer any questions they have honestly, and I tell them to believe whatever they’d like. I encourage them to research holidays and find peace with whatever beliefs resonante through their souls. And, it is my hope that the feeling of generousity and giving will be every bit as exciting to them as Santa and his reindeer. I put Halloween in this same category. If they can find something magical and meaningful, then why not enjoy it? I certainly hope your family enjoys the holidays! I look forward to reading your future posts!


  29. Steve says :

    Where I grew up in Jersey, we used fill pillow sacks full of stuff. The prize was “smarties”.


  30. Tony says :

    Nothing Christian about Halloween, just the eve of so called All Saints or All Souls day a Catholic event (whichever one it is, you’ll find no reference to such rubbish in the Bible) it’s just hypocritical religions that have made it that way just like the way they have misrepresented Jesus birth.


    • sgtjoebear says :

      Agreed, Halloween, Christmas and Easter are actually Pagan holidays. The Catholic church (in order to convert the Pagan’s of Europe) Designed these holidays around actual Pagan Holidays of Solstice etc, to make it easier for Pagan’s to conform.


  31. mmgoodsongs says :

    I remember, as a catholic school student, laying in bed on November 1st and stuffing my face full of the loot from the night before. I also remember the mad dash to try and hide it as soon as I heard my mom coming down the hall. I also remember going to mass that day and praying for all of our deceased friends and relatives. Christmas still had Santa and a nativity set under the tree. Our whole lives revolved around the church and there was no need to shut out the rest of the world while we did so. I like the balance you seem to have struck for your family. By the way……we also celebrate Hanukkah in my catholic household. We read all the lovely stories to our children, make latkes (sp?) and mazta (sp?) ball soup. As Christians, it is part of our heritage and we share so much. It’s nice to teach our kids to see our similarities and celebrate them. Lovely Post.


  32. Evie Garone says :

    Halloween is fun for everyone. I think it’s non-denominational! It’s American and if you’re having fun and not hurting anyone, why not! The origins have been lost and twisted long ago! Too much thought ruins things that are innocent and fun!



  33. ♥apple_core♥ says :

    Well.. I’m not Jewish ethnically. But religiously you could say I am…more towards the conservative side. But you know what made me come to this walk of life? Letting go of Halloween. I remember my last Halloween… I was dressed as a prairie girl. One parent insisted on taking my sister and I out, while the other parent stood firm that it’s origins were pagan and didn’t glorify God. So that was my last Halloween, and that same year, “lasts” for Christmas and Easter followed as well as Valentine’s and the like. But don’t worry, much more meaningful, enlightening holidays (could you call them that?), such as Pesach and Rosh Hashana have replaced them. Thanks for making me appreciate my beliefs! 😀


  34. Lou says :

    Halloween gets a bad rap from loadsa different religions and from just plain out right non religious idiots too. Shame that it is a celebration of ancient harvest festival in celtic and wiccan history and a time to honour our ancestors. (Honestly as an English hippy – wikipedia it) When you look into the traditional games/ tricks its about scaring away bad luck/ bad omens and welcoming good ones. Halloween is a time for feasting. Christians hijacked the holiday samhain 31st oct -1st nov and turned it into all saints day (thanks for taking away the fun hey!). They also encouraged fasting? (oh great no cakes…) so trick or treating eating cakes and sweets is a very non Christian attitude. Personally, who cares about the Christians who do/dont like it? I certainly don’t. After 18 years of catholic schooling by nuns and forced mass attendance (I use a lot of swear words when talking face to face about it, I did not enjoy it at all) I will however take up any chance to party and eat cake. That includes any other religions celebratory feasts, new year, yule, eid, divali, even as an ignoramus of jewish culture, I follow online recipes and make food associated with that time of year and the celebrations involved. so I would say I am an empiricist atheist with hippy tendencies and enjoys fun and cake hence any festival is a goal unless it is Christian. (although sometimes i have to grin and bare it for my inlaws). Don’t feel bad about celebrating things you enjoy. Feel bad about the idiots who are too narrow minded to eat cake or dress up for fear of being satanic (which it has nothing to do with at all) and yes I have an aunt who thinks its all satanic well I just think she’s mental and all those crucifixes have messed with her head.


  35. Heather CJ Atkins says :

    I love my halloween-esque birthdate. I’ve come to embrace Halloween as my favorite “holiday” of the year!


  36. sgtjoebear says :

    I absolutely love this Article! Shows what a great mix of every culture we have and are able to celebrate.


  37. Sunflowerdiva says :

    Very interesting. When I was little my mom made me all my elaborate Halloween costumes. Now I’m lazy and just walk around with a witch hat on my head. Oh, yeah, and happy birthday!!!


  38. adamdickson says :

    I choose a random site and find – a Scorpio! welcome to the most maligned and misrepresented club in the world. Who cares, they’re only jealous anyway!


  39. Cara Bristol says :

    I know a lot of Christians who consider Halloween to be pagan.


  40. awwsugar says :

    Don’t let religious neighbors make you feel badly about something that you celebrated with your family and found so much joy in 😉 You know in your heart what your religion means to you-and halloween and religiosity are not mutually exclusive. You and your kids can delight in both holidays (Halloween and Purim) without hurting anyone. It’s true that halloween has become a non-religious american holiday for everyone to enjoy. I hope you still do-thanks for your post!

    p.s. Your grandmother sounds like an amazing lady.


  41. alfresco43 says :

    Enjoyed your blog – though I can’t relate to barely any of it. Jewish or non, it never came into our ‘frame of reference’. Collecting pennies for the Guy was far more symbolic (even though it had anti Catholic roots in Guy Fawkes’s raison d’etre) and the bottom line of making a little money had a sort of ‘ethical’ ring to it.
    Most envious of all those replies.
    Happy birthday (I’m on the 13th)


  42. Kim says :

    My husband and I both celebrated our birthdays last week in true end of October fasion with a costume party! I like having a built in theme that never gets old! Great post and great memories!


  43. joshsuds says :

    Great post! Congrats on getting freshly pressed. Intersting view on celelbrating halloween.



  44. Leah says :

    Great post! I too am a Scorpio cusp birthday and think of Halloween as my favorite holiday. But when my daughter started Jewish preschool this year, they made it very clear that they did not celebrate Halloween at school. I was quite surprised, and at first, a little disappointed given how much I LOVE Halloween.


    • transplantednorth says :

      pssst. I’m a Jewish preschool teacher. Jews are great at creating holy spaces and holy places. This month, we talked about orange, we explored the innards of a pumpkin, we talked about fall leaves, and also, we don’t talk about Halloween, nor do we talk about Valentines Day. Outside of the synagogue, children can do as they please, but they are taught to respect and distinguish what is a Jewish holiday and what is not a Jewish holiday. Thanks for reading!


  45. PBCookie says :

    I really need to hear someone else’s perspective about this. I’m not Jewish, but I am Christian, and I can get all theological about that relation, but I don’t have the time or space. Anyway, Halloween is not Christian, but how do you explain that to a 5 year old who barely understands prayer? I’ve had the same thoughts. He can celebrate it, as a kid, enjoying it as a holiday/costume party/candy buffet, but when he is of age, he’ll be more welcoming to our talk about its place in our home and lives as Believers. Anyhoo, great piece. ♥


  46. Cherry says :

    Well said! As a young (Christian) girl growing up a number of years (ahemmm) ago, I remember Halloween fun the way you write of it. We thought it nothing more than a secular holiday for dressing up (keep those sewing machines humming), yet now it is frowned on and avoided by many Christian communities. Thanks for the fun trip down memory lane.


  47. Monica says :

    We don’t think of Religion when we celebrate Halloween. We don’t even relate it to beliefs. We simply do it for fun, for the candies and for the kid-or-childatheart-costume-party memories. 🙂


  48. Aviva Luria says :

    Interesting… I never heard anything Jews about not celebrating Halloween until I lived in Canada and was reading a Toronto-based web site on Reform Judaism. One of the rabbis writing for the site said she didn’t allow her kids to celebrate Halloween, but this didn’t seem to be based on religious reasons — she mentioned her objections to women being depicted as witches. And she said she usually took her kids to the movies, because the movie theaters were empty and they had them all to themselves.

    I have to say I felt so sorry for her kids. What kid wants to sit in an empty movie theater on Halloween? Empty movie theaters are great for curmudgeonly adults, not for kids, most of whom just want to have fun and be where the action is. I thought, C’mon, Lady — don’t your kids already sit out enough holidays as Jews in a culture dominated by Christians? It’s not enough that they don’t get a Xmas tree or a visit from the Easter bunny? Please….

    Halloween indeed has roots in Christian-based superstitions involving scaring away evil spirits, but it’s now just a fun holiday that’s pretty much celebrated universally. I think you should just enjoy, let your kids have fun, and not worry about it. 🙂


    • NYM says :

      Two thoughts on this:
      1 – The rabbi’s kids probably love being in an empty movie theatre with their mom every Halloween. This is their tradition, like Hindus, Buddhists etc going to Niagara Falls on Xmas.
      2 – Jewish kids don’t feel they are missing out on Xmas & the Easter Bunny when Jewish celebrations and holidays are celebrated with the same vigour as the Christians display for theirs. And I don’t mean a chanukah bush. I make a huge deal out of Chanukah, Purim, Passover etc. Decorations, parties, special foods… These holidays are awesome for the kids, a lot of fun and is something that belongs to them.
      It’s only ‘missing out’ when there’s nothing taking its place.


  49. Isralike says :

    Hi, if you asked me, a fine thing until a certain age and while they know it’s not Jewish and it shouldn’t have more than fun in it. Trick-or-treat is not for older kids so then, at Bar Mitzva age or a year earlier, they should give it up and that’s it. I also played these Halloween games, totally unaware of what halloween actually was but just had nice time with my friends. This is a “day off” without any meaning, in my eyes (it really doesn’t have meanin, compare to Purim or Chanukka). Therefore, the meaning and importance of Purim, Chanuka and similar must be emphasized and explained to the children so they learn how to differentiate.

    Have a nice time. 🙂
    Mazel tov!


  50. perfectperfectionist says :

    Your childhood sounds lovely! Priorities always shift over time, but it’s wonderful that you have such fond family memories.


  51. gebarr says :

    The rabbi was right. But then, I’m not so sure it’s a christian holiday. I only go along with the brouhaha for my son. I too was born in late October. It’s a good time to be born and walk in the colorful leaves among the crow.


  52. julwindchimes says :


    our culture disregards halloween nowadays; but when i was a kid we had splendid times gathering in the popular kids’ front yard to go trick-or-treating, dressed in everything from pearls and nightgowns to cowboy boots, lol.


  53. NYM says :

    Great piece.
    I’m Jewish and we never do Halloween at my house, and we didn’t growing up either.
    I think part of the difference is where you are literally coming from. I’m first generation Canadian and when my family moved here, pogroms were still within living memory.
    For those of you who are unaware, a pogrom is basically a violent, unprovoked raid. Back in Russia & Eastern Europe on Halloween, gangs of cossaks or local bullies would dress up and ride out to attack the nearest Jewish village, shooting off their guns & setting fire to barns & roofs just for fun.
    I have many friends that feel as transplantednorth does, enjoy Halloween simply for what is – a fun, harmless opportunity to be silly & have fun. As a teenager & college student, Halloween parties were the absolute best.
    But as a mother, I can’t bring myself to promote it to my children. I tell them Halloween isn’t a Jewish holiday; when they ask me why their Jewish friends do it, I tell them they do what they do, and we do what we do.
    We buy candy and my kids love handing it out when the trick-or-treaters knock. But it is a vicarious pleasure – which btw is a very healthy thing to learn.
    You know, I wonder what school you teach at…but I won’t take a guess.


  54. workingtechmom says :

    Good post – and enjoy the birthday. I am also not young, born in October, and count on a birthday week-end each year to get all people in the house to ‘treat me’. Mostly just means making me tea when I want while I say “remember, it’s my birthday week-end”. With rolling eyes and some moaning, they do as I asked. Try it out and enjoy your day!


  55. aanjeli says :

    Amazingly engineered post. I really really enjoyed reading it, although may I humbly add in that I have contradictory opinions about how you percieve the holiday and maybe life in general. And that is only because I come from a different background, and I believe it is culture and religion that crafts the human mind to think on a narrow yet seemingly broad one track minded journey. I respect what you think and believe in as much as the next person, because after all we would probably still be in the Stone Age if not for Civilization and what comes along with it.
    Congrats of being Pressed! 🙂


  56. DC Few says :

    I like the posts that I’ve read here; this blog has a nice cozy touch. In answer to the article title, “What’s A Nice Jewish Girl To Do About Halloween?,” my answer is: to protect yourself from ” The Living Dead” at: fewforeverwords.wordpress.com.

    DC Few


    • DC Few says :


      Guess I should have plugged in my website differently; I’m still learning social network techs. See answer to title question and some Intelligent Gorey poems at my website.

      DC Few


  57. sarahnsh says :

    It sounds like you had such a cool Grandma, especially with all of the stuff she did. I know Halloween is kinda mixed, but kids just know that it’s a time where they get free candy and get to dress up as whatever they imagine themselves to be. I never got to enjoy Halloween much, my mom wasn’t into it, but children definitely get a kick out of it.


  58. Hibah Naz says :

    Nice post. I was moved by the paragraph, “But we still carve our pumpkin…..-till the end”. Something you’ve observed that not many do in a such a way. Keep up the writing.


  59. mysticmuser says :

    Your post reminds me of my one and only Halloween in the northern hemisphere. At the ripe old age of 29 I was as excited about carving up a pumpkin as those 20 years younger than me!!! Halloween in the southern hemisphere just isn’t the same – here it is spring. Enjoy the celebrations – I don’t think any religion really owns Halloween these days – it is it’s own thing!!!


  60. Halloween says :

    I will not disclose my age, and those of you who know me …


  61. Taki says :

    The problem with many of the old religions is they are still living in the past.

    Our culture has changed and with it, the reasons we have for celebrating certain holidays has changed as well.

    These conservatives mean well, but in all reality they are fighting a losing battle as the army of time is against them.

    We should know and remember the past and its customs, but we should never let ourselves be tied to them or allow them to limit our exploration of the world of today.


  62. OnDutyOverseas says :

    I’m currently serving our country in Afghanistan. I tried to explain Halloween to some of our Afghan (Muslim) colleagues one day when I shared some Halloween candy. The longer I tried to explain it, the more puzzled they became. I’m not sure they ever understood the holiday, but they all agreed that the candy was great!


  63. Delorfinde says :

    Really great post – really interesting. We don’t celebrate Hallowe’en in my house and my friends always think it’s because of our faith (Christian), but although there’s maybe some element of that in there, it’s mostly because my parents don’t like trick or treating and they say it’s like begging! If we wanted to have a party in costume at home, I’m sure they’d be fine with that, it’s just never occurred to us.


  64. MagiMysteryTour says :

    Did the rabbi also say that Jewish children should not celebrate Thanksgiving, Columbus Day, Labor Day, Groundhog Day, Memorial Day, and every other holiday that is not Jewish? It sounded, the way you tell it, like he felt Jewish children celebrating Halloween were somehow guilty of betraying Judaism by endorsing Christianity, as if it were equivalent to singing Christmas Carols.
    As others have commented, Halloween was a pre-Christian holiday which the church appropriated, because that was easier than preventing people from continuing to celebrate their ancient rituals. And if the ancient custom really was intended to keep alive the memory of departed ancestors, as some commenters have stated, then not only is there nothing anti-Jewish about that, but it is in fact precisely what you claim you are intent on doing in keeping alive the Jewish identity of your children, as you say “so they will know who they are”.
    The “darker messages that lurk below”, particularly the excessive morbidity of people turning their lawns into mock cemeteries, is something much more recent, that pretty much started about 20 years ago. That stuff has nothing to do with traditional secular or Christian celebrations of Halloween. It has more to do with Nightmare On Elm Street and Freddy Kreuger and all this ghoulish Hollwood horror fixation. If there is to be any objection to Halloween practices, it is that excessive morbidity that should be of concern to all of us, whether Jewish, Christian, or Atheist. Object to the morbidity, but not to the innocent costumes and the enjoyment of collecting candy.


  65. Oscar Belmont says :

    Once there is some religious elements in anything children would have that in their mind and keep it probably until they end their lives. I haven’t yet finished my life so I don’t know 100% but there are many good effects and bad effects I’m still keeping those elements at this age in the same way.
    I had a very religious family which was good in many things but on the other hand it has been definitely damaging my thoughts on relationship with ladies. It is a kind of still a little twisted despite of making efforts all the time to neutralise them.

    They have got also their own communities and understandings (totally different perspective from adult’s one) so we should make sure that he or she is not going to be isolated. The damage of such isolation wouldn’t be to underestimate.


  66. John A. Clark says :

    Each person needs to choose for them self. As a Christian, I do not celebrate Halloween. If has become a day of evil. It has change from its original celebration, even its spelling has change from the times when I was a child; (Hallowe’en) . It was the evening before ‘All Saints’ Day; called ‘All Holy Evening ‘. It was to celebrate the first day of the year of the old English’s calendar. To day it is not used for that. It just take you away from Your God, no-matter what your religion is.
    –John A. Clark


  67. stitch2k9 says :

    Love your post. I’m also one of those Jewish “goils” that loves Halloween. My mother’s answer – once my sister and I were old enough to understand the differences between Halloween and Purim – was to have us pick an an appropriate Purim Costume for later in the year at the same time as our Halloween Costume. My solution now that I’m on my own…Super Jew(ess). It allows me to put a slightly Jewish twist on the traditionally Pagan/Christian holiday.


  68. thegeeman says :

    Halloween is not a christian holiday. Most Christians don’t celebrate Halloween. Halloween is not aJewish Holdya either. It is a secular holiday invented to worship the devil. The Torah nor the Bible speak about halloween. Keep up the great work. I like this blog. Thanks.


  69. sayitinasong says :

    I have news for you… most people and most of all children have absolutely no idea about the origins of Halloween… it’s just a day to dress up and eat candy.


  70. Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson says :

    Stacey? Is this you? I have a similar story growing up. The rabbi made Halloween sound verboten. Really, I think he was just trying to keep us interested in Hebrew school. It was an epic fail. These days, everyone knows that Halloween is my favorite holiday of ’em all. (Maybe it’s the taboo factor the rabbi implanted so long ago!) Feel free to delete what you need to out of this post! Justr let me know if this is you!

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    My bloggie is “Lessons From Teachers and Twits”: http://rasjacobson.wordpress.com


  71. Lorraine Gershun says :

    I was always told that Jews did not celebrate Halloween because in some distant, past cultures it was a traditional day to act out on Anti Semitism. Never got many details.
    Needless to say, in So Cal where I grew up and in Hawaii where my kids are growing we have always embraced Halloween. My younger daughter is much affronted that there is Hebrew school scheduled tomorrow morning from 9 am to noon–on her favorite holiday. It is going to get in the way of her intricate preparations, but we have assured her that we will get full enjoyment in the PM hours.


  72. charisse says :

    I’m from the Philippines and I wish we have the same here. Though, during haloween, people go to cemeteries bringing food, lighting candles, cleaning the graves.

    Not fun, but oh well, it’s what we do here.


  73. bookheathen says :

    I was in the US at Halloween time a couple of years ago and was amazed by the neighbourhood and house decorations of pumpkins and broomsticks and ghouls. We don’t go to the same lengths in the UK – not yet anyway. Like Transplantednorth, I don’t count birthdays now but I do remember the fun I had as a child dressing up to entertain the neighbours. Though I don’t have a ‘religious’ opinion, I think that, sadly, the festival has taken on a sinister aspect where in some places gangs of children are demanding money to go away.


  74. amberausten says :

    I live your same shifting questions…. but I whole heartedly believe the kids understand the difference. As my oldest inches toward 13 and halloween isn’t the same for her as it used to be, I am grateful despite my inner spiritual urges to be less assimilated that we had fun costumes and good trick or treating memories. She knows where it really comes from, and we talk about history, but the candy is still free.


  75. Alexandra Fennex says :

    Mm, I definitely see where you’re coming from. The hardest thing is working out where you believe Halloween fits on the sliding scale between religious and cultural. If you see it as religious, you might well think that it’s inappropriate to celebrate it. If you see it as cultural, you might not see it as such a conflict of interests.

    To be honest I think it’s a conflict of interests even for Christian children. What’s Christian about walking ’round the neighbourhood demanding sweets? But in England the thing has become almost entirely cultural, with no reference to religion. All the churches I know hold parties on the evening of the 31st to discourage children from the door-to-door march. My sister and I used to cheat the system – we’d go round visiting, then go to the parties later!


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  77. dress up games says :

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  78. ....the little thread of thoughts says :

    Halloween is just supposed to be a fun filled tradition. If we delve into the minor details of each and every event like this then, there will be less number of fun-filled days. The least we can do, maybe let the kids have their fun. Anyways from the looks of it, Halloween is not the same as before.


  79. ambermartingale says :

    Re ….the little thread of thoughts: I think you;re absol;utely right. If we did the research with “due dilligence” and were offended by what we’d dug up, we’d never celebrate another holiday of any kind again!


  80. iammenot2beconfu5edwu says :

    Your post hits close to home for me! I grew up Christian, but not “devout” so to speak, so we still celebrated Halloween. By that, I mean we dressed up, decorated, went to Halloween parties or trick-or-treated. Now that I’ve been an adult for several years, I’m working on my relationship with God and expanding my Bible knowledge. My kids (4 and 2) go to Christian school (no celebration of All Saint’s Day or anything, it’s not Catholic school). They have a huge harvest fest to thank God for His abundant harvest. It has hay rides, pony rides, zoo animals for petting, small pumpkins for the kids to take home, bounce houses, games, songs, face-painting, candy, etc. It’s a huge festival and a lot of fun. However, the kids are only allowed to dress up as farm animals or farmers. That’s cool and all, but as a kid I really enjoyed all the fun and creativity in coming up with our own costumes. There were a couple of years where we bought one at the store, but most of the time we delighted in crafting our own. I was hesitant to “celebrate” Halloween this year, but decided that ultimately, those memories were fantastic for me, and we can make some adjustments, such as not decorating or dressing up as anything scary. If we don’t take Halloween’s origins to heart, I don’t see the big deal. For my kids, it’s just a day where a lot of people play dress up, pass out candy, and parade around the neighborhood showing off their costumes and receive free candy. It’s fun! Their dad and I will explain to our kids why we don’t do the scary costume thing, when they’re older and bring it up. In the meantime, they were happy to be Spiderman and a princess.

    Congrats on Freshly Pressed. =)


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