- Question: [Sunday, 25th Marcheshvan, 5782]
Is there any issue with my children getting dressed up for Halloween or going trick-or-treating in the neighborhood amongst Jewish families?
One may not do so due to the prohibition of Darkei Emori, as well as due to it being originally a holiday of idol worshipers, and even notwithstanding the Halachic issues, is certainly not a holiday that a Jew should practice.
Explanation: The question of whether celebrating Halloween is permitted according to Jewish law is due to its origin, and if it originated from religions of idolatry in which case following its practices would transgress 1) Darkei Emori, and possibly transgress 2) taking part in a holiday of idolatry and, 3) Ubichukoseihem Lo Seileichu. Indeed, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with putting on costumes and asking people for treats, and hence certainly if the entire holiday was secular in notion without any inkling to idolatry or other religions, then there wouldn’t be a question that it would be allowed, and would be similar to Thanksgiving which is considered a secular holiday that is permitted to be celebrated by a Jew. Thus, our issue with Halloween is not its practices but rather the origin of its practices. Now, regarding the origin of the holiday, see the website history.com which writes: “The tradition originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints. Soon, All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a day of activities like trick-or-treating, carving jack-o-lanterns, festive gatherings, donning costumes and eating treats.”
Bottom line, from all this it comes out that historically Halloween was associated with, and originated due to, beliefs and practices that are forbidden according to Judaism both in the Celtic culture and later on with its Christian – Catholic adoption. Therefore, although today it is mainly considered a secular holiday that has no connection to any religion, nonetheless, due to its origin it must be avoided due to the prohibition of Darkei Emori and Ubichukoseihem Lo Seileichu which prohibits such practices, and due to it being considered a holiday of idol worshipers.
Practically, in response to a question by the Satmar Rebbe, Rabbi Yoel Teitlebaum, as to whether Halloween should be treated similar to Christmas as a holiday of idol worshipers or if it is mere children’s play, the Rebbe responded that he agrees with his initial opinion that it is similar to Christmas and considered a holiday of idolatry. [Interestingly, Rabbi Teitlebaum stated to the Rebbe, that in his hometown the Gentiles returned from church on that day and the Jews would not leave their homes. The Rebbe, however, stated that this holiday was unknown of in Russia and was not followed by Russian Christians.] Likewise, based on the response of Rabbi Moses Feinstein regarding the allowance of celebrating Thanksgiving being that it is not traced in idolatry, it is clear that he would absolutely prohibit celebrating Halloween. Accordingly, a Jew should not practice any of the customs of Halloween as innocent as they may seem, and should save his trick-or-treating and getting dressed up in a costume for the Jewish holiday known as Purim.
Sources: See Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 148 that it is forbidden to take any part in a celebration associated with idolatry; Michaber and Rama Y.D. 178:1 that it is likewise forbidden for one to follow the path of gentiles or try to be like them [Ubichukoseihem Lo Seileichu]; Admur 301:33 that it is forbidden to perform actions that have no meaning and are considered Darkei Emori; For the discussion between our Rebbe and the Rebbe of Satmar: See Toras Menachem-Menachem Tziyon 2:343, Siach Sarfei Kodesh p 192; For the history of Halloween see: Halloween: Origins, Meaning & Traditions – HISTORY AND How the Early Catholic Church Christianized Halloween – HISTORY; See regarding celebrating Thanksgiving: See Igros Moshe E.H. 2:13; Y.D. 4:11-4; O.C. 5:11-4; Sic