My parents never let me celebrate Halloween. My 6-year-old self yearned to be Strawberry Shortcake or Smurfette like the rest of my friends. But my Jewish parents said it was a pagan holiday. I didn’t know what that meant, but I pictured some very evil people who were ghost and goblin-obsessed.
When fall came around, I would walk along the aisles of the grocery store with their tantalizing Halloween candy displayed, fantasizing about buying candy corn and bags of chocolate, but my mom resisted my incessant pleas. We didn’t even buy candy for the trick-or-treaters. One year we gave out pennies and tangerines—TANGERINES!!!!! Needless to say, we were not the most popular house to trick-or-treat at on the block.
My mom would say you can get dressed up for Purim. But waiting almost six months to get decked out in costume when you are 6 years old seems like an eternity. She said shalach manot (Purim gift baskets) with chocolate chip hamantaschen was better than any Halloween candy, but I knew it wasn’t true. I wanted to gorge myself on Twix and Twizzlers like everyone else.
One year when I was 12, my friend convinced me to ride on our BMX bikes and “go bombing” for Halloween. That meant vandalizing the neighborhood with shaving cream and throwing eggs on people’s lawns. That sounded perfect to me. I was finally going to celebrate Halloween one way or another. Somehow a neighbor spotted me and told my parents. I was grounded for two weeks. To be honest, I think that my parents were more upset about me “observing” Halloween than the vandalism.
So now that I am a mom of three young kids, I always find myself torn on how to celebrate Halloween. My kids are clamoring to celebrate it and I’m doing my best to rein them in and not go over the top with our Halloween festivities. At the same time, I am also doing my best to keep this a subject non grata with my parents in a nod to their “pagan views” about the holiday.
So my family isn’t going to carve out a pumpkin to make a Jack O’Lantern and we will not create a makeshift graveyard on our front lawn like so many of our neighbors do. But we will go to a farm together and pick apples and pumpkins. We will display our plain pumpkin by our front door along with seasonal mums because I simply love celebrating these autumn gifts.
I’m going to let my kids be a Poop emoji, policeman, and princess this year. We are going to trick-or-treat around our neighborhood with friends. It’s a day when my husband will come home early from work and we will go out and spend time together as a family. I’m heading to BJs to buy bulk candy with my kids because let’s face it, who wants tangerines?
And when Purim rolls around, I will break out the hamantaschen recipe and we will gather around my kitchen island filling the pastries with chocolate chips. We will get dressed up again and listen to the Megillah and marvel at the magic of that holiday too. And it won’t feel like a poor man’s substitute for Halloween. It will be just perfect as its own holiday.