Should Jewish Youth Trick or Treat?
Portions of this article were published in
“Ask the Rabbi” J Mag, Where Celebrities, Experts and J Daters Come to Kibitz.
Halloween dates back to a fifth century Celtic celebration. The word originated with the Catholic Church. However, in the American melting pot of shared cultures, trick or treating and teen parties are no more religious than bagels or a deli sandwich.
There is no Jewish prohibition against dressing in costume, and as we know, it is customary to do so on Purim. I think it makes sense that Jewish schools do not celebrate Halloween, but I also think that it is normal for Jewish children and teens to want to celebrate Halloween and I think it is important to find ways to make it acceptable for us as observant Jewish parents and families.
If your child attends Jewish day school, arrange for your child to go trick or treating with other children from the day school whose families will want to support the same parameters around safety, health and kashrut.
If your child attends public school or secular private school and afternoon Hebrew School, arrange with the parents of your child’s school friends to begin trick or treating late enough for your child to be able to finish Hebrew School before needing to get into costume.
When Halloween falls on a Friday, hold a Halloween party on motza’ei Shabbat. Invite your child’s Jewish and non-Jewish friends to the party and serve delicious kid friendly food. Have candy on hand to make sculptures and some for eating.
I believe that more harm is done to Jewish continuity by forbidding youth from observing holidays like Halloween than from supporting the celebration in safe and healthy ways.
Halloween is a time to teach piku’ah nefesh. Children should be accompanied by an adult when trick or treating to keep them safe. Teens are safer at a Halloween party than hanging out on the streets late at night. Treats that are unsealed could post a health hazard or worse, and should not be eaten.
Talk about the health issues surrounding intense and excessive eating of candy and sweets in a way that cautions, but doesn’t frighten children and teens.
Here are some ways to deal with the mound of candy that our children and teens collect on Halloween:
•Invite your child to trade in unacceptable candy for a few acceptable pieces. This is a good way to deal with candy that is treif (unkosher) or to which your child is allergic.
•Ransom candy for a penny, dime or quarter depending on your child’s age. Let your child keep the money and join your child and a few friends in making a sculpture out of the ransomed candy.
•Invite children and teens to eat small amounts of the candy they collect and to make a sculpture out of the rest.
•Buy a lacquer or resin that will preserve candy sculptures and avoid bugs. Explain to your children that the sculpture won’t last forever, but it will last much longer if it is lacquered. Explain that the lacquer is poison and it’s important not to try to eat candy from the sculpture once the lacquer is applied. Then paint the sculpture with lacquer as a family project and give the sculpture a proper place of prominence in your home.
•Make the sculpture a family tradition that children and teens can look forward to making again next year and sharing with their friends.
 There is a short history of Halloween at http://wilstar.com/holidays/hallown.htm
 Piku’ah nefesh means protecting life or saving life.
 This is a good way to deal with treif (non-kosher) candy and products to which a child is allergic. I used a similar principle with my kids year ‘round. Whenever they had to give up eating something at school or on a field trip, I praised them and provided a healthy treat.