Parents often find it difficult to exclude their children from such Americanized activities; however, it is important for children to understand why Jews do not celebrate Halloween. There are many Jewish activities for children to do on Halloween as an alternative to trick-or-treating that will also teach valuable lessons in giving to others. To keep the kids from feeling left out and completely excluded, it is important to find other fun, appropriate activities they can do on Halloween night.
Halloween Costumes and Parties at School
Kids go to school and their friends are talking about what costume they are going to wear and the parties they are going to attend. When the day finally comes, the kids, teachers and school staff outfit themselves in their best school-appropriate Halloween costume.
Many schools have attempted to be all-inclusive while continuing the tradition of classroom Halloween parties. However, the general result is not much more than a simple name change – instead of Halloween Party, it is a Harvest Party. The end result – a classroom Halloween Party with a different name, vaguely disguised as a Fall Harvest Party.
Many parents allow their Jewish children to participate in the classroom activities in order to keep them from feeling left out or excluded from their friends. Jewish children who participate in the classroom celebration should bring items such as cookies and cupcakes decorated with fall colors and themes or a favorite traditional Jewish treat.
Pumpkin Patches and Jack-o-Lanterns
Kids love going to the pumpkin patch to pick out that one special pumpkin that ultimately becomes a carved-out silly or scary face. What is to become of the poor pumpkin head after Halloween? It gets dumped in the trash, left to rot or smashed to pieces by the neighbor kids.
Instead of carving the pumpkin and allowing it to rot on the porch, take the kids to the pumpkin patch or grocery store and let them pick out a smaller pumpkin or two. Bring the pumpkins home and prepare for a family day of pumpkin baking, involving the children as much as possible based on their age and abilities.
Cut the tops off the pumpkins and scoop out the seeds – kids love the ooey-gooey, slimy feel of pumpkin seeds. Roast the pumpkin seeds with a little olive oil and rosemary for a special treat. Slice the remaining pumpkin into sections and bake it at 350 degrees until it is soft.
Remove the shell and puree the freshly baked pumpkin to create an assortment of pumpkin treats:
- Pumpkin cookies;
- Pumpkin pie;
- Pumpkin cake;
- Pumpkin bread;
- Pumpkin soup; and
- Pumpkin Challah.
Store leftover pumpkin puree in the freezer or preserve by canning.
Halloween Trick-or-Treating Alternatives
The entire concept of trick-or-treating goes against the Jewish concept of giving and sharing with others by teaching them to be greedy and selfish and collect as much tooth-rotting candy as possible. Several years ago, UNICEF came up with the concept of “Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF.” UNICEF created specially decorated boxes for children to go out trick-or-treating and collect spare change instead of candy; the collected change gets sent to UNICEF.
Simply incorporate this concept with tzedakah and children learn valuable lessons in giving to others who are less fortunate. Before Halloween night, sit down as a family and decide together where the collected money will go. Brainstorm several ideas including:
- Local homeless shelter;
- Pet rescue organization;
- Battered women’s shelter;
- Children’s hospital; and
- Food bank.
Have the children decorate their special tzedakah boxes and let them go door-to-door collecting spare change. Parents should go with their children for safety purposes as well as to help explain what they are doing. The next day, have your children go with you to deliver the tzedakah to those in need.