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Oct 31 2011

Halloween Costumes, Too Cute!

By at 2:01 pm

Ok, we know, we know, Halloween isn’t a Jewish holiday. But some of our readers do celebrate this night of sugar and dress up. (This mama is avoiding the holiday for as long as she possibly can.) But I just got sent this photo of our contributor Gabrielle Birkner’s son, Saul, dressed as a piece of sushi.

When asked if she made Saul’s costume (she does live in Brooklyn, the borough of DIY) she explained: “If by that you mean that I made the money to buy it, then yes!” Oh man, I love that girl.

If you’re also celebrating the spook fest, feel free to post photos of your costumed kids to our Facebook page!

Halloween, Brooklyn Style

By at 1:17 pm

Our own Matthue Roth offers his take on Halloween.

(Click to enlarge the comic.)

Oct 28 2011

Hello, We’re Talking About Free Candy

By at 9:14 am

Man, Carla is a Halloween scrooge! Our perspective on Halloween could not be more different. The fact that her post didn’t focus on FREE CANDY absolutely blows me away. Don’t Jews love free stuff?

I remember as a child we watched Charlie Brown’s Great Pumpkin while my mom “checked” our candy (for poison, so she claimed). In doing so she picked out all of her favorites – she liked those gross honey candies with the bee wrappers and Almond Joy so I gladly gave her the runt of my loot.  My brother’s and I carefully planned our costumes and wore them to the school parade and I remember being sad when I was too old for beggars night and had to stay home and hand out the candy.

Pre-children my husband and I were Halloween crazy. We have four Rubbermaid tubs of spooky (no slutty) costumes and decorations. Every year we decorated our entryway up like a haunted house with scary music and spiders and my husband would answer the door in a scream mask wielding a plastic bloody machete. Every few minutes or so we’d glance past the black curtains hanging over our front porch to see how many ladybugs and princesses were crying in the driveway (usually there were at least six) and I’d go out in my trusty pumpkin costume  and give them all extra candy. The only downfall to our fun was that we were too old to trick-or-treat, although we did take pride in buying WAY too much candy and polishing it off ourselves afterwards. We usually ordered pizza too, which pretty much made us the coolest non-breeders on the block.

The ironic thing about our holiday celebration, other than the fact that we didn’t have children, was that my husband and I are TOTAL WIMPS. We are scared of EVERYTHING. We don’t go to haunted houses, ghost tours, or watch scary movies.  We can’t even watch an episode of CSI because we both have nightmares for a week. Once our children are old enough to request these types of activities they’ll have to find some cooler parents.

Last year was our first Halloween as a family of three and we didn’t decorate a single thing, we were lucky to have left the house in between nap #3 and baby bedtime. I pulled out my pumpkin costume and my husband was a man, and he wore a yellow hat (rendering him “the man in the yellow hat”). Our son was a dragon and hated every minute of it. We live in a Jewish neighborhood, so there isn’t any door-to-door begging and I think our jaws dropped to the floor when we found out. Here we are finally with a genetic tie to free candy – and we were living on a street of dark porches.

It was actually the first time I realized that Jews don’t celebrate Halloween, and I immediately told my husband that Halloween, much like my Britney Spears Christmas Album, we not something I’m giving up. Thankfully, the business district gives candy to kids who parade up and down the street and it’s actually more efficient than walking up to doorsteps.  Last year, our little dragon scored a pumpkin full of candy, mostly chocolate, that my husband and I gladly polished off.

I love Judaism and the meaningful traditions excite me, but I am not about to tell my child that he cannot partake in yet another glitzy fun American candy-fest.  Like Carla, I do not see Halloween, pumpkin patches or hayrides as a threat to my son’s Jewish identity. I see them as fall traditions that our family will look forward to with great anticipation. I love it when our house smells like pumpkin bread, I love seeing my kid dressed up as adorable creatures and I love eating his snack-sized Snickers bars that he isn’t old enough to partake in yet. I’m sure the day will come when he is embarrassed that his parents wear costumes and he counts his candy before heading to bed, but we have many years to enjoy Halloween before that happens.

Even if you are a Jew who doesn’t celebrate Halloween please tell me you go to the store on November 1st to get half-priced chocolate and cheap Purim costumes?

Oct 27 2011

Why We Celebrate Halloween

By at 1:36 pm

halloween candyHalloween is on Monday. I can’t stand Halloween.

I’ve never really enjoyed dressing up, and I find the constant ringing of the doorbell annoying. Besides, most of the candy isn’t even chocolate, so what’s the point? Before our daughters got old enough to notice the proliferation of pumpkins and skeletons and witches in our neighborhood, my husband and I had a long-standing tradition of turning off all the lights and hiding upstairs. We were Halloween curmudgeons, and we loved it.

Our dislike of the holiday hasn’t changed much since we became parents, but we have started acknowledging it. I took the girls to a pumpkin patch, and we’ll be painting our pumpkins tonight. Our younger daughter will be a monkey this year because it was the cheapest costume available at Costco, and our older daughter will be a ladybug, because that was the only costume we could find that met both of our requirements: she was desperate for a tank-top dress (tank-tops are her latest obsession; a decidedly unhelpful one as winter approaches), and I insisted that the ensemble be reasonably modest—a surprisingly challenging task given that we were looking for size 3T. Who dresses their preschooler up like a slutty doctor? (That’s not a rhetorical question, people. I’d like names, please. There needs to be a conversation here.)

We’re going to a small Halloween party at a neighbor’s house. We’ll go trick or treating in our town center, gathering candy from the local merchants and admiring the murals that neighborhood children have painted on their windows. I hope that in a few years my girls will be painting them, too. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 29 2010

Halloween Terror: The Peanut Problem

By at 10:48 am

Halloween was terrifying last year. It wasn’t the fake blood or the creepy clowns or the overwhelming crowds that descend on our block every year (seriously—we get around 2,000 trick or treaters). It was the peanuts.

Benjamin, my autistic 7-year-old, is severely allergic to them. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t understand that eating them can make him stop breathing, but even if he does, he definitely doesn’t realize that they’re in so many chocolatey treats.

What I do know is he’s a crazy impulsive sugar fiend with a laser eye and a penchant for eating things off the ground. So I was aware of the possibility that he might, say, stealthily snatch a stray peanut M&M and cram it into his mouth. But in the spirit of not making him miss out on something potentially fun simply because watching him like a hawk sucks for me, I decided to venture out (costume-free) to the block party. Unfortunately, we didn’t get very far—someone had spilled a bag of peanut M&Ms on the sidewalk in front of our house, and, well, you can figure out what happened next.

As I think I mentioned, it was terrifying. But it all ended up okay: Benjamin was ultimately fine, and I no longer had to waste even five more seconds thinking about whether or not we should celebrate Halloween in the first place.

I grew up trick or treating, while my husband, who was raised orthodox, didn’t. When Benjamin was small we attempted to discuss whether or not our family should forgo a holiday with pagan roots, but we were both sort of ambivalent about it. We’d figure it out when Benjamin asked to dress up, we agreed. We didn’t know that by age 2 he would lose the handful of words he’d acquired, or that he wouldn’t utter another one until he turned 4. And by then he wouldn’t tolerate putting on a costume anyway, so why bother?

The issue didn’t come up again until a couple of years ago, when we moved here, to Halloween central. Suddenly, the pressure was on. While I really liked the idea of just sticking to Purim, it seemed odd to keep our kids holed up when there was a party going on outside. Besides, there are already so many things that make Benjamin different. Why single him out and ban him from an age-appropriate activity he might actually enjoy?

Thanks to a beige legume, I no longer had to answer the tough questions. At least that’s what I thought until the other day, when Zachary, my 4-year-old announced that he wants to “trickle treat,” and that he would like to do so dressed as Batman.

My husband can deal with this one on Sunday. I’ll be hiding out with Benjamin.

Read more from Jana at her blog ihateyourkids.tumblr.com

Oct 27 2010

The Halloween Grinch

By at 10:29 am

My daughter just turned 1 and we celebrated by giving her a cupcake and going to the zoo. I couldn’t bring myself to host a party. It was too cold to have it in the park and my apartment is already too small for the three of us. So, the idea of inviting over several couples and their offspring was not entirely appealing.

This is not what I expected from myself. That is to say, I thought that my entrance into motherhood would make me want to partake more in group activities, not less. But I couldn’t really get into all those mommy groups and playgroups. I just don’t feel like doing all the things I’m supposed to do.

But I’m a joiner, really!

And now it’s Halloween. And everybody is asking me what my daughter, Mika, is going to dress up as. And I’m getting that same itchy feeling as when people asked me about what I was doing for her first birthday. Do I really have to put her into a costume? What am I supposed to do, dress her up like one of her favorite things–a cracker shaped like a bunny?  A strawberry? Or that book with the flaps that makes animal noises?

I think on Halloween we’ll just stay home and look out the window at all the kids trudging through the streets in their funny costumes. And we’ll eat some strawberries and bunny crackers.

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.

Oct 20 2010

Halloween for Jews

By at 1:04 pm

If we’re really going to get into it, the pagan-originated Halloween might not be totally kosher for Jews to celebrate. BUT, if you ask me, any holiday that involves trading all your banana Laffy Taffy’s for fun-sized Snickers bars can only be considered one thing: American.

Lest you really want to deprive your kid of the one day it’s actually okay to take candy from strangers, I’d say go ahead and celebrate the spooky night. If you still want to ensure this kind of  behavior doesn’t lead to devil worshipping, you can even dress your little one up in a Jewish-themed costume, for good measure.

My personal favorite is Torah Boy, seen above, which is pretty self explanatory. And, okay, hilarious. You can purchase it at the same website that also sells Chasid Child, which features a shiny gold coat that is a little harder for me to understand.

Granted this Hamantaschen Costume probably  makes a little more sense to wear at a Purim celebration, I would still be delighted to see one of these delicious cookies strolling the streets with a plastic pumpkin full of chocolate in tow.

Cracked.com’s list of the 20 Costumes That Will Earn You a Halloween Beating features “Super Jew” at #10, which only seems to consist of a Star of David bib and Jesus-like sandals, so maybe I wouldn’t go with that one.

And for all you adults that want to get in on the costume fun, I have a brilliant idea for you. All you need is a handful of foam mattresses, 50 sticks of hot glue, and eight cans of spray paint, and you too can become one of the most classic (and scariest) Jewish figures, the Golem:

Happy Halloween!

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