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Oct 25 2010

Why Halloween Ain’t My Thing

By at 9:46 am

I’m a lot of fun. I like roller-coasters, drinking sake, and hiking cliffs and ravines, choosing to hop boulders wherever I can. I like almost every sport you can name, I like making up silly songs for my kids, and I like spontaneity in all forms. For all intents and purposes, I can guarantee you this: I am fun. When it comes to Halloween, though, I have what some might call “issues.”

Issue #1: I don’t like scary stuff.

As much fun as I like to think I am, ghoulish monsters, people sneaking up on me from behind dark corners, spooky music, and gory make-up are just not my cup o’ tea.

I should add that our boys are very innocent and sensitive, and partially due to the fact that they do not watch television, they are pretty unadulterated in the scary/spooky/make-believe is supposed to freak you out department.

When our older son was a toddler, Halloween displays would cause him to hide his face and cry as he shook his head back and forth – “NO!”- against my chest until we would remove him from the offending storefront. I once unknowingly parked his pumpkin patch wagon under a life-size creepy gorilla statue at our local pumpkin patch, and only when I looked back at him to see why he had stopped speaking to me mid-sentence did I realize that he was literally paralyzed with fear.

Issue #2: I don’t like my kids to eat a lot of candy.

Ok, now I am kind of sounding like I am a ball of not fun; I know. But hear me out: I enjoy sweets, and I find a treat here and there fine for my older son. As vegans, we have to pick much more carefully what we consume in the sweets department, so we consequently end up eating less sweets than most people if only for the simple reason that the things we can eat are more scarce (we are not much fun for the candy manufacturers who place their wares in the supermarket check-out aisle for example). That being said, my older son had his first sweet at the age of 2 while visiting our family in Israel, and he enjoys a modest sweet once in a while. Fortunately for me and his dentist, he doesn’t really have a sweet tooth and it’s sort of a non-issue; we don’t keep candy or cookies around and he doesn’t really ask for them.

Our younger son is just 2 and he has virtually no desire for anything sweet. I don’t know exactly how we accomplished this, but he would not even partake of his recent birthday cake. Putting all of that together, a holiday that exists to a large part around the consumption of candy and sweets sounds like a problem waiting to happen for me, my husband, our boys, and our dentist.

Issue #3: I don’t like trick-or-treating as an activity for small children.

By now, you probably are totally 100% sure that I am indeed not fun at all, but I simply do not see anything fun about a bunch of small children who should otherwise be tucked into bed snoring gently walking around the streets in darkness wandering from house to house screaming for sweets and potentially getting scared. Now that my older son is 5, he thinks being scared is a neat “big guy” thing, but I also believe strongly that his sweet bravado might crumble in the face of a front yard grave replica, a mummy behind a curtain, or a Freddy Kreuger mask. And then we would be far from home, he would be tired, cranky, and potentially embarrassed and it would just not be… fun.

Now that I have convinced you that when it comes to Halloween, I am not really fun, let me convince you how we make it super fun, and no one feels left out or left behind or scared or anything not fun.

Solution #1: No forcing the scary.

Much as it is inconvenient at this time of year, I don’t need to force my kids to be something that they are not. Their innocence and sensitivity is a feature of their personalities and they will soon enough be calloused by this hard cruel world. For now, I avoid reasoning with them that there is “nothing to be afraid of,” and I help escort them from regions of stores that are scary. I emphasize that it’s not just about being a “big boy,” since some big girls (like Mama) also don’t like being scared. As they get older, they will discover for themselves their comfort level with scariness, and I will one day perhaps be holding their strong and brave hands for protection as we make our way through the drugstore.

Solution #2: Chill out on the candy control and make a little indulgence okay.

This may not work for everyone, but in our family’s experience, a little fun in the food department works, and we don’t have problems reining it back in once Halloween ends. We put limits on sweets: how much (“One or none!” we say with a sincere smile), what time of day (never in the morning, and never before bed), and what kind (thank goodness for vegan substitutes for butter, cream, and gelatin!). This year, I have decided to make a vegan toffee bark as our special Halloween treat. It will be the main sweet we indulge in, and I will let my boys choose the things we decorate it with.

Solution #3: Make your own traditions.

Our favorite alternative to trick-or-treating is organizing a daytime get-together with a simulated “neighborhood” where kids go “door to door” to collect their goodies. We have done this in the park with each family standing at a designated spot with a basket of their items to hand out (non-candy treats are welcomed!). This satisfies the exploratory and adventurous nature of kids at Halloween, and it seems to do the trick, forgive the pun. In our homeschool community, we have park days where we dress up and have a parade, and we also make other activities during the week of Halloween costume-friendly, where appropriate.

The other thing we do as a Jewish family is to appreciate Halloween as an American funday, but to understand that in the Jewish tradition, our fundays also have historical, spiritual, and religious content to them. So for Purim, we don costumes, eat fun food, and we also go to Temple to celebrate a brave Jewish Queen who saved the Iranian Jews from near extermination by the evil Haman thousands of years ago. This emphasis doesn’t mean Purim is better than Halloween, it just means Jewish and secular holidays are different and thus they get different attention.

In our house on All Hallow’s Eve, we eat fun foods like mini egg rolls and vegan chicken nuggets, bob for apples in a deep bowl, carve pumpkins, hang some decorations, and invite over my parents and a few close friends who don’t have kids but want to be a part of a family celebration of this fall festival.

And we have fun. We have fun because we are together doing things with our hands, we are eating special foods and treats we don’t normally eat, and we have fun because we have found a way to be ourselves at a time in our culture where there sometimes seems to be only one way to be.

So this Halloween, I can promise you that I won’t be scared, I won’t be fighting with my kids over candy, and I won’t be walking the streets in darkness. And I will be in the most fun outfit of all: my pajamas and slippers. And if that doesn’t sound like fun, I don’t know what does.

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23 Responses to Why Halloween Ain’t My Thing

  1. melanie silver says:

    i really want to know where most of you are getting your information. dont you read anything but a select group of books. get your head out of your books and learn something instead of being ignorant all your life. are you all orthodox or are you conservative or reform. orthodox i can mostly understand, although i know many orthodox who are open minded. anyway you should be ashamed for perpetuating such negative stereotypes. all it does is promote hate. we dont need anymore hate in this world. my kids are learning about all different people and i refuse to teach them hate and fear and ignorance of others. you are starting to sound like the christians you rail against. so get off your high horses and learn something.

  2. Barbara says:

    I hate being scared,too! I don’t/didn’t allow sugar, pop, i.e., junk food in my home when my children were growing up, but I gotta tell ya,you’re raising a bunch of sissies!!! All your sitings of what Holloween REALLY means has a basis, but in America today, SO WHAT!!That was then, this is now. Lighten up! Halloween has morphed into a secular celebration. You people are looking way too hard to make a bad mountain out of a antiquated mole hill. Glad all you unfun people are staying home…I’m going to the best party in town after greeting and welcoming all those wonderfully darling and creative kids in my neighborhood. Remember all you unfun people, turn your lights out so we know who you are, and we won’t approach your house! Then make sure you stay home today so you can’t see the rest of us ghouls out on the street so we don’t have to bother you with our fun celebrations. I guess you and the Jehovah Witness people have a lot in common.

  3. Stephen says:

    My dear Michelle,

    It so happens that Linda Miller0-Smith is correct. All Hallow’s Eve IS a Christian – if not necessarily a Biblical (in THEIR version of the Bible) holiday. The name derives from the fact that it is the night before the Christian holiday (started by Pope Boniface IV in the 7th Century) to honor the saints who had died and were now in heaven. Given this history, the day could also be called Erev All Saints. The fact that it has all sorts of strange, “Satanic” (sic) connotations has to do with the fact that the American version has been strongly influenced by Druidic customs concerning honoring the dead. Hence, from a Jewish point of view, it partakes of idolatry in two different flavors: Christian and Druidic. Hardly a good holiday for Jews to celebrate!!

  4. Barbara Niles says:

    The kids are the losers on this one. Ease up, Mom, and let them enjoy their childhood. It is gone all too soon. Remember that you can’t shelter them and control them forever. Let each of them become his/her own person. You are the one who fears Halloween and they learn from you. You should relax your standards a bit. You’ll all be happier for it.

  5. Anaise says:

    Thank you for your article Mayim. Halloween is actually a pre-Christian festival to celebrate the end of harvest season but also coincided with All Hallow’s Eve, a day set aside to offer offerings to the dead. There’s more but I’ll spare you. Anyways, my family doesn’t observe the day and it’s just nice to know there are others out there who feel the same…thanks again

  6. Michelle Long says:

    How do you figure Halloween is a “Christian” holiday? It is most certainly pagan, and no solid Christians I know celebrate it or participate in it in any way. Ask any wiccan or satanist what their favorite holiday is, and they will surely reply, “Halloween” (the second is usually their own birthday, because of numerology reasons). I would not think any worshipers of the One True G-d, be they Jew or Christian, would want to participate in something that is against G-d’s word.

    • Rivkah says:

      The carved Halloween pumpkin at a door means someone in that house was sacrificed to a pagan god, originally. That is a Druid tradition and is evil. I agree that children don’t need to eat a lot of unhealthy sugar or high fructose corn syrup candies and dress in costumes that relfect evil people instead of godly ones. As much pagan influence as there is in Christian religions, Halloween is not one of them. Read the book, “Come Out of Her My People” by C.J. Koster to learn about how the Jewish religon of Rabbi Yeshua was changed by pagan Emperor Constantine to get pagans to be Christians, a religion that was not the religion of Rabbi Yeshua at all. Even the name Yeshua was changed to Je-Zeus, to worship a pagan Greek chief deity. The seventh day Sabbath was changed to Sunday, the day of worshipping the sun in pagan religions. December 25 is the birthday of Jupiter, Zeus, Mithra, and Ra, and Tamuz, pagan deities. Yom Kippur is the birthday of Rabbi Yeshua which should be celebrated by a FAST, not a feast.

  7. K. M. McDonald says:

    Hummm….have we forgotten the narrative richness and depth of the traditional, literary tradition in Judaism discussing “scary” things, such as golems and hauntings; especially within the 19th century Eastern European shtetls? Even in the Torah, we have Saul and the Witch of Endor. Let’s not even begin with the “scariness” and horrors of Holocaust literature. The beauty of Judaism is the inclusion of diverse interpretations of the Torah and its teachings, and the serious inclusion and consideration of diverse sources of Judaic knowledge and literature. Thus, I am not denigrating the decisions of the participants in this dialogue, but we must be clear about the facts and realistic about the presence of multiple Judaic narratives and the role of “scariness” and “horror” in Judaic literary tradition and story telling.

    • Holly says:

      When discussing the Golem in Eastern Europe, he was created as a protector of the Jewish people. After dark he would wander the streets as a security guard. I teach Sunday school at our temple (6th grade Jewish history) and when we reach the section on Poland, I bring in play-doh and have the students create their own Golem. Most of them look like super heros, they have fun and do not associate the Golem as scary, but as a protector of our people in that period of time.

  8. Victoria says:

    I agree with the author. James…allowing a 5 year old to be scared (and blow it off as oh well, they’re resilient) for some kind of learning experience does NOT create well-adjusted, resilient kids. Who wouldn’t protect their young kids from avoidable fright? My biggest adversion to Halloween is not scariness or candy or Christianity, but it’s characters are based on ghouls who have a sort of terrorist mentality: victims are tortured, horrified, fearful, hurt in gruesome ways, and killed. (think scary movies) Purim’s costuming is based on happiness, beneficence, heros, furthering life and Hashem’s plan.

  9. Douglas says:

    Baruch Hashem! I’m so glad there are people out there who share the same sentiment regarding halloween. I have had to fight family and friends about the way I raise my children, and these are the same ones who give the eye roll etc. whom you dare not tell them how to raise their children. I’m a bit disappointed that the real fact of halloween being a ritual dedicated to the devil was not mentioned. May you enjoy blessings as you stand up for what is wholesome, pure and of good report.

  10. Donna says:

    Although Halloween is not an official Holiday, people have been treating it as such. I don’t blame you about the candy, it is very bad for the teeth and the body (consuming too much sugar) stick with the healthy stuff until they’re older to decide for themselves. For Mrs.Millero-Smith, yes, Halloween is based on a pagan Christian ritual, but there are many Christians who hate ALL HALLOWS EVE also, I know of many. They realize that it is a form of worshipping the devil and his minions and conjuring up spirits, so they do not allow themselvs or their children to participate in these activities. Like you and the writer, they will do something else that is fun and clean with their kids on Halloween. Jews are not exclusive in this because it is Christian based.

    • melanie silver says:

      you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. halloween is NOT about worshipping the devil or his minions as you call them. halloween is the last Pagan harvest festival of the year and the Pagan new year. instead of posting such ignorant comments and promoting hate, we as jews should look to understand different practices even though we may not necessarily agree with them. christian practices of mistrust about holidays they dont understand lead to many innocent men, women and children being murdered in salem MA. and many Pagan holidays were co-opted and turned into christian ones such as passover, which falls about the same time as easter which orignally was the Pagan ostara or spring festival. half my family is roman catholic and half is jewish, so i do know from what i speak. if you are interested, i can give you some references so you can check this out for yourself.
      Melanie Silver

  11. No one mentions one of my biggest concerns about All Hallow’s Eve – it is a Christian religion derivative. We Jews can dress up on Purim, have sweets for the New Year, and so on. I’m not about to celebrate a scary, over-hyped, Christian, “holiday,” thank you.

  12. Denise says:

    You sound like fun to me!
    Your kids are lucky to have a Mom like you!

  13. James says:

    Wow… overprotective-parenting much? Kids are resilient in their youth; better to let them experience the world they actually live in (within reason) than to shelter them their entire childhoods until you unleash an 18 year old into society who’s afraid of fake gorillas. Kids cry, they learn, they move on. Done. Removing them from the situation makes us as parents feel like we did a good thing by protecting them, but it also takes away the learning–which is something they’ll need to survive on their own. Along with protecting one’s youth, it is also a parent’s duty to teach them how to deal with life in the real world, because you’re not always going to be around to keep the real world from getting to them.
    Pajamas and slippers: fun? Blow the dust off and get out once in a while–and take the kids with you! Happy Halloween! :-)

  14. homeshuling says:

    “When our older son was a toddler, Halloween displays would cause him to hide his face and cry as he shook his head back and forth – “NO!”- against my chest” …. my daughter had the same reaction to the easter bunny.

  15. Couldn’t agree with you more! (Although we do indulge in a wee bit more sweets ;-) I’m a big wimp myself, always have been. So I go for cutesy Halloween stuff over scary. My kids get FREAKED out by the scary moving screeching store displays, which makes it difficult to enter certain stores this time of year. As for trick or treating…we go to the zoo. It’s past bedtime, yes. But it’s safe and secure and a nice “treat” for them!

  16. Leanne says:

    THANK YOU. I don’t care for the direction Halloween has taken over the last several years– it seems there is much more extreme gore everywhere. I’m with you, as an adult, not enjoying this as fun. My daughter likes plenty of spooky stuff as it happens, but she can be sensitive about other things most people think are fine for kids, so I feel bad for all the kids exposed to things for all of Sept and Oct that freak them out. I detested that feeling as a kid, and it took a long time for me to develop the mental maturity to tell myself it was just pretend. DD loves TOTing, well before bed time, with our neighborhood friends, but we trade most of the booty in to the Great Pumpkin for some non-candy surprises. And we still love Halloween and have lots of (age-appropriate) fun!

  17. lisa d. says:

    I love this!! I hate being scared too and I will NOT go out trick or treating with the kiddos. They have fun and I just end up scared in the fetal position in the car! (kidding) I just do not like the scary part and everything you put for solutions sounds MUCH more fun!

    Hope you are well… I have missed you! (I’ll email you soon!)

  18. Elisha says:

    I’m so glad to read this. I know we are like minded in a lot of things based on your facebook posts. It is not always easy to find in this crazy world of “mainstreamness”. I am looked at as on of THOSE moms when I tell people (family included) that my 2 1/2 yr old child does NOT get candy and seldom gets cakes and cookies, if ever. You know that look, I’m sure. The eye roll accompanied by the indignant huff and change of subject. lol. Thank you for posting this. Gave me some great ideas for Halloween. :)

    • Miriam says:

      Just read an article on Finally Letting Go of Halloween from Jewish World Review which stated that Halloween is connected with the expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290; the demonization of the Jews by Christians in medieval England, and murderous attacks on Jews on All Hallows Eve…Need another reason to not celebrate?


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