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Without delving into the Pagan origins of Halloween (or even discussing it altogether - as it may not be allowed l'halocho), how would you encourage Jewish children who've celebrated Halloween in the past, not to celebrate it this year?

I'm looking for an explanation that's palatable to 12 yr. olds who don't care about all the associations it has with death. These are kids who watch movies filled with death and play gory video games. I don't know if the death associations speak to them, and I think I might need a different approach.

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Is it the death, the costumes, the candy, something else? (When I was that age it was the candy, but I can't speak for the 12-year-olds in your life.) –  Monica Cellio Oct 15 '13 at 2:39
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@MonicaCellio I'd think the peer pressure -- doing what their classmates do. But Shmuli can answer for himself. –  msh210 Oct 15 '13 at 3:29
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Yeah, I'm hoping Shmuli will edit the question to add that info. –  Monica Cellio Oct 15 '13 at 3:32
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Your motivation in discouraging them seems to be based in the fact that the celebration is halachically forbidden. As such, why wouldn't you just explain to them why this is the case? Further, not allowing children of any age to celebrate this would probably help avoid confusion. –  Fred Oct 15 '13 at 6:05
    
@MonicaCellio: I'm not sure what you want me to edit. –  Shmuli Oct 15 '13 at 6:07
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I once heard a rabbi speak about this (but, sadly, I don't remember who), and he talked about contrasting Halloween with Purim. Both involve dressing up in costumes and socializing -- but on Purim we go around and give gifts, while Halloween is about taking. He made this a teaching moment with his kids about mussar (right behavior), and tied it in with the gifts to the poor that are also part of Purim. And since Purim also involves feasting, that somewhat spoke to the candy aspect. I believe he said that he always gives his kids sweets on Shabbat too -- instead of once a year they get it every week.

So, broadly speaking, he applied transference and used it to elevate Jewish ideas over secular or pagan ones.

None of that addresses the death/spookiness angle, so if that's the most-important angle for the kids in question, this might not help. But if they're attracted to Halloween for other reasons, this might work for you.

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So you're saying I have to wait three months for my candy? :-( –  msh210 Oct 15 '13 at 5:48
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@msh210: one possible approach to dealing with that is to hand out candy, and have them chewing on it while you're addressing the issue. That might make the candy thing less of an issue. –  Shmuli Oct 15 '13 at 6:12
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Nice! Also contrast how Halloween is about death, and Purim is about living (notwithstanding Haman and his sons, but the celebration is basically "we weren't killed")... –  AviD Oct 15 '13 at 11:24
    
@msh210 or until Friday night, just like last week. Look, those poor kids only get candy once a year, but we get it every week! :-) –  Monica Cellio Oct 15 '13 at 13:19
    
I really wish I could remember where I heard this so I could give proper credit. –  Monica Cellio Oct 15 '13 at 13:19
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Maybe what you're looking for is a way to communicate the idea in Deut 18:9-15... that the Israelites should be different from the other nations and stay away from magical/idolatrous obsessions or attempts at power that bypass God. In the spiritual realm Jews have only one, very special, relationship. Even so, God would give a better replacement for those things (v. 15).

Like Monica mentioned in her comment, there are lots of reasons why kids might find it hard to hear that message. If it's candy and costumes then Judaism isn't lacking, but if it's the spookiness they like or the desire to fit in with other kids on that day it is harder. Somehow, if you want to get the real reason across, I think you would need to find an appropriate way to touch on the pagan associations that are involved and how Hashem taught the Israelites not to delve into that kind of thing (even just for fun) like other nations did. And then the focus has got to be all on the holiness, beauty, value, and life that happens in Yiddishkeit when that commandment of God is really honoured! The best way might be with stories... maybe they will be inspired by stories of people and communities who cared about holiness instead of being interested by foreign spirituality. Maybe you could encourage them to have a special emphasis that week on the value of set-apartness and how special the Jewish traditions are, e.g. families (or you as a group) prepare an extra special Shabbos meal or make some kind of film together along the lines of "it is a tree of life to those who grasp it..." and how that fits into our lives. Maybe you could even look at how Jews in many cultures express their Judaism in both similar and different ways from each other, and stir up appreciation for the value of what makes them different from the cultures around (even while communicating appreciation for the positive things in other nations too).

I don't really know how to make that appeal to this age group, but if the aesthetic and the inspiration of this concept can drown out the aesthetic and peer pressure of Halloween, then you will be sharing something special that you really believe is the reason. As long as they see real depth, intricacy, worth, and enjoyment in their own heritage then they won't feel like the command to stay away from pagan things (in order to protect the unique relationship with God) makes them miss out. It's giving up a small and hollow thing in order to get a real treasure, which is worthwhile in ways that can appeal to everyone because it's that big and good.

Probably helps to get older teens who feel the same way you do in on it as well.

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BS"D

Raised as a Christian, at points in my life according to a protestant Christian tradition in which we also did NOT celebrate Halloween, I made Teshuva as an adult (who has not yet been blessed with marriage and children...may this soon change, if Hashem so wills it ~ IYH, Inshallah).

As an adult Baalat Teshuva, I do not celebrate Halloween, according to Halakha, nor do I encourage those within my family who are non-observant to do so.

Based upon my own past experiences, I agree with those above who identify the two major concerns that children have about not celebrating a non-Jewish, secular holiday with pagan (and idolatrous!) roots such as Halloween (as well as JCmas, as celebrated): (1) feeling deprived of the joys and "fun" of the experience ~ dressing up, sweets, celebrations, and (2) feeling "left out" or "apart from the others".

It seems to me that (1) alternative joyful experiences can always be created within the home, among family and/or fellow members of one's community, in a manner that does not validate that which is contrary to our tradition in any way, and that (2) it is a very important lesson in life for a child to CHOOSE early on that who he or she is, and his or her relationship with Hashem, is cherished, and to be defended in the face of pressure to "follow everyone else".

Though younger children are incapable of understanding Torah foundations more deeply, older children certainly are, with the help of an adult (especially a parent) willing to take the time and care to discuss with them...

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