Halloween - Trick or Treat?

One of my fondest memories growing up was taking my little orange UNICEF box and collecting pennies - as well as yummy treats - on Halloween. It was also a great day for acting rowdy and causing a little trouble around the neighborhood.

Now that I have my own kids, I'm wondering - what is the Jewish position on Halloween?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Halloween has its roots in paganism, and was later adopted by Christians as All-Saints Day. (See the history of Halloween here.) Today, of course, the decorations and dressing up for Halloween in the U.S. is an innocuous secular holiday.

As for participating in such celebrations, one should not feel the need to “add” holidays to the existing Jewish calendar. Halloween is particularly problematic because of its pagan origins. There are those who are more lenient regarding Thanksgiving. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein sees room to permit it on occasion, without declaring it as a regular holiday or observing steady customs like eating a special meal of turkey ("Igrot Moshe" Y.D. 4:11-12).

I once heard a representative of the Jewish community being interviewed on the radio on the topic of Purim. "What is the significance of the Purim holiday?" asked the radio host. Explained the Jew: "Just as the Irish have a springtime drinking holiday called St. Patrick's Day, so too the Sages instituted Judaism's own springtime drinking holiday called Purim."


In truth, Purim is the Jewish costume day! Which reminds me of a wonderful story:

A man moved from the U.S. to Israel, and for some reason, in the middle of March, trick-or-treaters of every shape and size were buzzing around the streets of Jerusalem. Many of the costumes were incredible, and even some adults were dressed up.

When the doorbell rang, this man panicked. He didn't have a drop of candy in the house to give out. Who knew what tricks this crowd was capable of playing if he turned them away without a treat. Remember: "Trick or treat - double treat to smell my feet!" And what a nightmare the morning after could be, cleaning up the damage done by kids I that hadn't been "treated" well enough.

He opened the door, and standing there, grinning from ear-to-ear, were five costumed pre-teens, each holding a fancier stash of goodies than he'd ever imagined.

"I'm really sorry, guys," he started to say. "I just don't have anything to give you. I didn't know today was Halloween, please don't vandalize my house." The kids gave each other a puzzled look and began to giggle.

Finally the biggest boy quieted the others and said, "Mister, I don't think you understand. We didn't come to take anything from you. We came here to give you something." And with that, each of them handed him a beautifully wrapped gift basket.

"Today is Purim," said a boy in a gorilla suit. "These are 'shalach manos' baskets. We all go around today and bring gifts of food to our friends and neighbors. Happy Purim!" With that, they turned and left. Empty-handed and happy.

Think about it. In Jewish consciousness, the real “trick” for having joy in life is not to take... but to give.

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