Is there a Jewish angle to Halloween?


The Golem, photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Now that the holiday is officially over, I can come clean…there doesn’t seem to be an official connection between the Jewish community and the partially pagan-influenced/largely secular celebration of Halloween. Sure, there are the occasional Jewish-centered cultural parties, or the uncanny (topical) similarities between Halloween and Purim. 😛 But besides for when it falls on holidays (like Havdalah this evening,) there’s really very little connection between the two.

…or is there? Fellow Examiner Rabbi Ben Kamin explores the nature of some very Jewish spooks–the ddybuk, an evil spirit, which possesses the recently deceased, the Golem, who was made of clay and animated to protect Jewish communities from harmful, external forces, and Adam’s first wife, Lilith, who is traditionally thought to be an evil seductress, a jealous harpy who harms babies, perhaps a sort of witch.

His whole post reminded me of one of my favorite Chanukah stories–Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins. In it, our Jew-boy Hershel has to trick some evil, holiday-hating goblins to let the village celebrate the Festival of Lights.

To me, it is a quintessential Halloween story, and far more similar to the holiday than is Purim. Chanukah takes place in the cold, in the dark, and uses the “miraculous” light from the menorah to ward off evil things, like antisemitic conquerors (the Greco-Syrian regime, which was in power when Chanukah became a holiday,) or goblins, ghoulies, scaries, perhaps as a metaphor of that.

Still, occasional controversies pop up between members of Abrahamic religious groups, which question celebrating a holiday with obvious pagan roots. Within Judaism, there is also the issue of embracing assimilation, Americanism, and turning away from the faith. Local blogger Vicki Boykis hosted a discussion earlier this week about what it means to celebrate Halloween as a Jew. The general consensus seems to be that the two don’t conflict.

Crossposted to The Examiner

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