a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

Should Jews Celebrate Halloween?

Posted on: October 31, 2011

Or any other of those secular Holidays?

Today Facebook and Twitter were a-buzz with Jews facing off on whether or not Halloween should be celebrated.  Most of the feeds and status updates I followed cited Halloween’s pagan roots as reasoning why Jews shouldn’t take part.  So what do I think, the girl who called herself Wiccan for about 4 years.

A little abbreviated Halloween background.  Halloween, or Samhain as Wiccans call it, is a day to remember your ancestors.  It’s the day that pagans believe that the veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead is at it’s thinnest.  Now, they’re not trying to raise the dead, they’re just hoping to connect with members of their families who have passed on.  In Mexico, the Day of the Dead is celebrated in cemeteries.  Families light up graves with candles, bring treats and food and spend time with their loved ones who have passed on. 

Pagans and earth-centered religions have existed since the dawn of time (which is why I was drawn to it).  Pagan holidays and rituals are all based on balancing oneself with nature, connecting with nature, and looking inwards.  It’s not about casting evil spells, harming someone, or turning your ex boyfriend into a frog.  How a nature-based holiday focused on communicating with ancestors turned into a cavity fest is a matter of history.

Like many religions (Jews for example) people who embraced earth-based religions were persecuted.  They were forced to convert to Christianity or face death (sound familiar).  Some people died, some people converted, some people took their religion underground and passed it to their families.  In order to convince “these barbarians” of the superiority of the Christian faith alters and sacred spaces were destroyed and churches and cathedrals were erected in their place.  Old holidays were replaced by new Christian holidays, strikingly close to their original pagan holidays.  Yule/Christmas, Ostara/Easter, Halloween(Samhain)/All Saint’s Day.

I did the Wiccan thing from about senior year of high school until my junior year of college.  In the end, I gave it up to be a lazy atheist, but the philosophy, reverence for the earth, and balance of female and male divinity are aspects of earth-based religion that I respect.  Imagine my delight when I realized that many of our Jewish holidays are agriculturally based.  My favorite paganyesque Jewish holiday of all time is Sukkot.  For 8 days we live in a hut outside close to the food we are harvesting, we make sure that we can see the stars, we bring gourds to decorate and hang up pictures of our patriarchs and the best and pagany thing of all-We shake branches of specific trees with a fancy citrus fruit in the four corners of the earth while murmuring Hebrew prayers.  If your average evangelical Christian saw you doing this in a field back in the day, you’d be tried for Witchcraft!  Shit, if someone saw you doing it today, they’d probably think you were doing something kooky and weird.  They might even cross themselves.

Judaism’s unabashed love of argicultural holidays is based in the Torah.  Our people are a people of nomads, people close to the earth with a deep love and affection for God.  We also celebrate the feminine in God as well as hold strong to our argricultural roots.  Not to mention that our holidays follow a lunar cycle, guided by the moon which is known by all to not only control the oceans, but women’s cycles as well.

So, in my opinion is it okay for Jews to celebrate the Halloween of today.  The Halloween filled with candy and costumes and trickery-ask me when I have kids 🙂  I think, at least today, that I would give it an okay because it doesn’t hold spiritual power over me, and most Americans do not understand (truly understand) the holiday’s strong, earth-based roots.  To them (I’m stereotyping Christians now) Halloween is the devil’s work.  But then again, Wiccans don’t believe in the devil and we Jews don’t either.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Like it? Then “Like it!”

Candle Lighting Times


January 2018
« Jan