Halloween, also known as All Hallows' Eve or All Saints' Day, originated as
a celtic holiday that was celebrated by Druids, the priests of a religious order in ancient
Gaul and Britain. The celebration marked
the end of summer harvest season and pumpkins, cornstalks
and other similar products of the earth were used
in the feasting and merrymaking.
In the eighth century,
the Catholic Church realized it was failing in efforts to keep Christians from celebrating the pagan holiday and decided to incorporate Halloween into the Christian
calendar. The holiday would be celebrated
on the first of November 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
the Christian celebration, including the tradition to dress up
as ghosts, goblins, witches, fairies,
elves and other mythical creatures.
Today, Halloween is celebrated in a number of countries around the world, including the United States, with customary practices that include trick-or-treating, costume parties, lighting bonfires and visiting haunted houses.
While many American non-Orthodox
Jews do tend to celebrate the non-religious traditions of Halloween, halacha prohibits Jewish participation in the holiday.
The reasons for the Jewish prohibition
Jews are forbidden by the Torah to partake in "gentile
customs," a prohibition derived from Leviticus 18:3. This edict has been used by Jewish religious leaders
as a source to determine the dress code and
permissible behavior of the Jewish community throughout
Jews are also not allowed to partake
in non-Jewish or idoltorous worship, per the Ten Commandments. Halloween, having both pagan
and Catholic backgrounds, is deemed
a gentile festival and is therefore forbidden
That being said, despite
Halloween's religious origins most Americans
consider the holiday to be a national tradition - much like Thanksgiving -
without the attachment of any religious
significance. Many American
Jews have adopted this interpretation of the tradition with the understanding that the holiday
has only a secular meaning.
Rabbinically speaking, however, a
holiday's origins do not simply disappear
over time, so Halloween would still
be considered a religious holiday- gentile
in nature and ultimately against Jewish