Should Jewish People Be Celebrating Halloween?

You may be wondering why, in the month of April, I am asking a question about if Jews should be celebrating Halloween.

According to Alfred J. Kolatch in The Second Jewish Book of Why, Halloween originated as a Celtic holiday and was celebrated by Druids (priests of a religious order in ancient Gaul and Britain). The celebration marked the end of summer and pumpkins, cornstalks, and products of the earth were used in the feasting and merrymaking.

In the eighth century, when the Church saw that it would not succeed in weaning people away from celebrating the pagan holiday, it incorporated Halloween into the Christian calendar. The holiday would be celebrated on November the first as a day honoring all saints (hence the name All Saints' Day). The night before, October 31, was called "holy [hallowed] evening," and many of the old pagan Druid practices were retained in its celebration, including the dressing up as ghosts, goblins, witches, fairies, and elves.

Halacha prohibits Jewish celebration of Halloween. The reason comes from a pasuk in Parshat Kedoshim that we will read this Shabbat (hence I am writing about this in April instead of in October), Vayikra 18:3: “Do not perform the practice of the land of Egypt in which you dwelled; and do not perform the practice of the land of Cnaan to which I bring you and do not follow their traditions”.

There is no shortage of Jewish holidays to celebrate. Halloween is usually only a few weeks after a month of holidays including Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, the holiday which celebrates the fact that we should appreciate that everything that we harvest comes from God and Simchat Torah, a festival where children amass a tremendous amount of candy while celebrating the Torah.

Those who want to celebrate the products of the earth do so on Sukkot. Those who like to collect candy do so on Simchat Torah. Those who want to get dressed up in costumes will have to wait a few months, but they can do so on Purim.

The beauty of living in Israel is that we don’t even realize when it is Halloween since the country follows the Jewish calendar.