Monday, August 30, 2010

A new twist on the old Halloween debate

A new school year is beginning, and we've been talking about the upcoming events on the calendar. There are the new school year activities, and then the Jewish new year holidays, then Columbus Day, Halloween, and on and on.

Some Jewish families don't believe in celebrating Halloween. They argue that at its least offensive, its Christian (All Hallow's Eve) and pagan roots make it inappropriate. They argue that at its more offensive, it was a date that was historically used to persecute Jews, and any celebration of that holiday is inappropriate.

If you haven't guessed yet, we're not with that faction. We send our very Jewish-self-identified kids to a very secular preschool where Halloween is a very fun event. We feel confident that they know who they are and we feel unconcerned about letting them participate in what is, to their eyes, an entirely religiousless parade and party. Yes, there's history. But many great occasions have dark histories. There's also only one chance at childhood, and shouldn't it be filled with games and costumes and silliness and candy? We think it's possible in this particular concern to use a balanced perspective and err on the side of inclusion.

(And anyway, we let them sit on Santa, so what's a little candy corn between ideological differences?)


As we plan for the upcoming events on the calendar, the Jewish holidays figure prominently and so we've been telling their stories to jog the kids' memories. We've talked about Rosh Hashanah and we recently had a long conversation about Yom Kippur. As is her way, E sought a little clarification:

But I can still eat, right? Why do the grownups fast?

"The fasting is to make us holy, to make us closer to God. Fasting makes us like angels, because angels don't need food. They just need to be near God and do the work of God. Being like angels is as holy as we can try to be. That's also why you'll see lots of people in shul wearing white on Yom Kippur."

So angels are holy and we want to be holy?

"That's right, love."

So, Mama?

"Yeah, sweetie?"

So, I think I want to be an angel for Halloween. Can I dress up like an angel?

"Yes, love."

So here we are, on the brink of another Jewish year and another school year. We tell stories and we look ahead and we tell of our past and we sketch the rough drafts of our future. In so doing, my Jewish daughter who loves God and wants to be holy like God wants to take the costuming opportunity of post-Christian and -pagan Halloween to dress in a way that promotes her Jewish understanding of the world.

It's just postively post-faction. And I love it.

PS. This is not the first time we've mixed our holiday reference points. But it still makes me smile. Pin It

1 comment:

SmartBear said...

Your kiddos say the sweetest things. I love how inquisitive they are. Religion is such a tough topic. We are Unitarian Universalists, so we celebrate and honor many of the Jewish holidays (as well as other holdiays) at our church. The older tot gets, the more protective I feel of his religious education right here in the middle of the red state/bible belt where we live.
You'll have to post pics of the angel!