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Resigned Tolerance

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Today is my least favourite day of the year. Which, not surprisingly, puts me at odds with the overwhelming majority of this country.

This holiday is just. not. Jewish. I mean, it’s REALLY not Jewish. It’s origins are probably Celtic — and definitely pagan. Beyond being a celebration to mark the end of summer, Samhain carried with it elements of a death festival and involved the afterworld.

Today’s observance in no way involves the cultic rites that were once practiced in the early days of Halloween. However, ritual vestiges remain. Costumes, jack-o-lanterns, and imagery of the occult all find their origins in ritual behaviours that belong to others. Even trick-or-treating was originally the method by which the poor would beg for food in exchange for reciting prayers for the dead. [Like earning parnasa for saying Kaddish, maybe?]

I don’t like scary. I don’t like gory. Bloody I don’t mind so much…in its proper context. Such as in an operating theatre.

Judaism celebrates life. After all, was it not God who said:

 הַֽעִדֹתִי בָכֶם הַיּוֹם אֶת־הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֶת־הָאָרֶץ הַֽחַיִּים וְהַמָּוֶת נָתַתִּי לְפָנֶיךָ הַבְּרָכָה וְהַקְּלָלָה וּבָֽחַרְתָּ בַּֽחַיִּים לְמַעַן תִּֽחְיֶה אַתָּה וְזַרְעֶֽךָ

I call this day heaven and earth as my witness: See, I set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Now, choose life so that you and your children may live. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Egging, toilet-papering, forks in the ground. These so-called innocent pranks go beyond the mischievous. They are meant to be destructive. Both physically and emotionally.

Aw, Frume Sarah, why can’t you just lighten up??

First of all, I don’t even understand that phrase. There is no lightening up in Frume Sarah’s World as it is not in my nature.

Perhaps I would feel a whole lot better about Jews celebrating this goyishe holiday if they would apply the same fervor and religiosity to their observance of Jewish holidays.

In the meantime, having encouraged our children to attend public school and engage in modern society, I reluctantly permit them to participate in Halloween activities. To a limited extent. And never at the expense of our values.

In other words, no scary, bloody costumes. No discussion of costumes until the Fall Holidays (i.e. the Chagim) are over. We don’t decorate. And Shabbat ALWAYS comes first (in years that Shabbat is an issue).

Sometimes it really is like being a mashgiach in a kosher-style restaurant. Right, Dr. P??

18 Comments leave one →
  1. Sunday, 31 October 2010 6:33 pm

    oh goodness, i despise Halloween too.
    I definitely keep it as “low key” as possible – and I count down the minutes until it’s over.

    I think, though, it has less to do with the Jewish aspect and more to do with the overdone ridiculousness of the whole thing. I hate how it happens for days and days (why not just ONE day) and how people get more and more crazy each year….


    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Sunday, 31 October 2010 10:10 pm

      It really has gotten out-of-hand.

      I didn’t even touch upon issues of peer pressure when selecting a costume. I mean, the whole thing is riddled with problems.

  2. Sunday, 31 October 2010 6:41 pm

    Check out this article on the topic from our regional Jewish paper:

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Sunday, 31 October 2010 10:14 pm

      It so happens that I came across this link last week. And, not surprisingly, found myself in agreement with those who lean towards the right.

  3. Sunday, 31 October 2010 6:57 pm

    I totally agree. So not my holiday. I have actually been surprised by how many of my facebook friends (Jewish) are “celebrating”. My kids know it’s not our day, so while they winge a bit about wanting the candy or to carve pumpkins, it isn’t too terrible. That said, they are in Jewish schools, so admittedly it is a bit easier (although it’s a community day school, and a fairly large percentage of their classmates do T-or-T.)

  4. Frume Sarah permalink*
    Sunday, 31 October 2010 10:16 pm

    It’s tough feeling left out. It is especially tough to feel left out by classmates whose values and behaviours differ greatly.

    I too continue to be surprised.

    BTW, love your post about the frugal benefits on November 1st. Going to link to it on my FB 😉

  5. Monday, 1 November 2010 12:16 am

    Ftrance tried to import this holiday and I am glad to say that after a few years of enthusiasm very few people actually celebrate it.
    I saw very few people in costumes yesterday and I am convinced Halloween is not an issue for Jewish parents.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Sunday, 7 November 2010 6:11 pm

      Count your blessings 😉

  6. Elisa permalink
    Monday, 1 November 2010 4:15 am

    I totally understand the fact that it isn’t at all Jewish and why this is the case on so many levels – ones that you eloquently explain here. However, it is such a kid-oriented holiday and I love watching my kids enjoy sharing a holiday with their non-Jewish friends.

    So, I compromise, we don’t decorate the house. I hate scary movies and I don’t even like walking into the scary section of the Halloween store. I dress them up in non-scary costumes, let them participate in the Halloween parade and parties at school and they go trick or treating. Then, I worry about the dentist bills and the Kit Kat bars that I find very hard to resist. But, I don’t worry that they lose their Jewish identity over this. Not one bit.

    • Elisa permalink
      Monday, 1 November 2010 8:19 am

      As an aside, I would much rather pick my battles and fight over Christmas carols and decorations in the public schools.

      • Frume Sarah permalink*
        Saturday, 6 November 2010 10:51 pm

        Jewish identity certainly won’t be lost over Halloween. I just don’t see much value in it.

        I guess when it comes down to it — Frume Sarah wants Jews to do Jewish. To focus their energy and excitement on those things that enhance and value life.

        Halloween does not intrinsically do these things.

        Also, once we start saying “Halloween started as a religious observance but no one really does it for that reason anymore,” we teeter on that slippery slope. And you know which one I mean. Because most people have a similar take on Christmas. I would hate to see a time when Jews justify their Christmas observance with “you know, Christmas started as a religious observance but no one really does it for that reason anymore.”

        Chas v’shalom.

  7. Thursday, 4 November 2010 5:01 pm

    It was really low key around where I live and I was glad. The only thing I like Halloween for is the classic movies they show on TV sometimes with actors like Boris Karloff and Vincent Price. But as far as “celebrating”… I don’t.

    It’s not quite my LEAST favorite day of the year, though. That is reserved for December 25th. They’re already starting to cram THAT day down our throats – commercials on TV, decorations in the stores. Soon the music will start on the radio and I’ll have to change stations.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Sunday, 7 November 2010 6:12 pm

      Poor Thanksgiving seems to get the shaft, wedged inconveniently between Halloween and Christmas.

      I don’t mind Christmas as much because that just so isn’t our holiday. Much clearer lines of distinction can be drawn.

      For now…

  8. Anita permalink
    Friday, 5 November 2010 6:46 pm

    I was glad that my son’s school didn’t allow any Halloween festivities or costumes in there (as fitting, since it’s a Jewish school). However, what surprised me was the Jewish preschool attached to the JCC here not only celebrated Halloween, they had a Halloween parade for the kids through the JCC. When I expressed surprise to my friend whose son attends there, she said that the preschool also stays open on the High Holidays (sound familiar?). 😦
    However, since my hubby’s non-Jewish parents had just moved here the day before Halloween and expressed a desire to take their grandson trick-or-treating, we got him a costume, and a pumpkin to carve with Grandpa.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Sunday, 7 November 2010 6:14 pm

      I’ll have to write an update to the JCC openings because the reality is a bit different from the original letter…

      In any event, I find a JCC preschool participating in Halloween just bizarre. Our preschool made it VERY clear that Halloween (along with SAINT Valentine’s Day, SAINT Patrick’s Day, etc) has no place in a Jewish school.

      Which is not the same as saying that Jews can’t or shouldn’t celebrate it. Especially if they are observing it with their non-Jewish relatives.

  9. Saturday, 6 November 2010 8:44 am

    I don’t get it at all. I loathe this holiday and I can never wait until it’s over. I don’t get it, never have and never will. Crazy me, I know, but i find scary things to be rather, well… scary! Why the heck would someone want to be scared!? when I was a kid I found it emotionally terrorizing, and now I just see it as stupid honestly.

    • Frume Sarah permalink*
      Sunday, 7 November 2010 6:18 pm

      Yes. Scary things are scary. I’ve never thought they were funny. Or entertaining.

      Not to mention the peer pressure to have the “right” costume, etc.


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