Minnesota Mamaleh: About Halloween


At the risk of alienating some of my healthier, greener Mama friends: I. Love. Halloween. Like seriously LOVE it. I love the costumes. The decorations. The festivities. The hooplah. And even the treats. We decorate and celebrate and gasp I even let my kids be in charge of their own candy. Why? Because it’s the stuff that memories and traditions are made of. And because it’s fun.
I know! Think of the environment! The sugar highs! The bad behaviors! And the tummy aches! For the love of God, think of the children! But think of the Jews? Seriously? The Jews?
If you dislike Halloween because you don’t like things that are scary. You think that it’s overdone. Your kids are annoying when they have too much sugar. And you don’t want to drop money on costumes or decorations or who-knows-what-filled candy. Fine. Claim it. Own it. Live it.
But to say that it’s not our holiday? That “real Jews” just don’t celebrate Halloween? Well that just plain irks me.


Listen, I get it. Some of our history is frightening and horrific and it’s so very important to remember and to never ever forget. But in being mindful of that remembering I don’t think that it’s necessary to view ourselves and to live as “the other.” Nor is that what’s going to keep our Judaism and our children’s Judaism alive. What is going to do that is to focus on what we do DO Jewishly. And how we do it. Fun. Joyful. Together. That’s the stuff that’s sustainable in a positive way. And isn’t that what we want our Judaism to be? Positive? And sustainable?
There’s good, a lot of good, in having our own distinct holidays and traditions. But equally wonderful are holidays like Halloween which are not focused on the “My Holiday or Yours.” Celebrations that we can all just do together, side by side, shoulder to shoulder. And I believe in that. Whole-heartedly.
So judge us as you may, we go the whole nine yards. The jack-o-lanterns. The candy. And the costumes. Speaking of which, let’s talk costumes.

Snow Princesss. So sweet, so 2009

Last year Kayi fell in love with a “Snow Princess” costume. It was intricate, sweet and expensive. At least more expensive than I was used to. She and Jason had a “serious talk” about the pretty, spendy costume and decided that she could have it, but she’d wear it for two years. She agreed excitedly. Breathlessly even. No joke.
But this Fall she saw things differently. Snow Princess was so very last  year. And where I was about to cave, Jason stayed strong. He thought that we’d be setting a terrible precedent and horrible example about how we treat money when we, you know, actually have it. Enter: allowances.
We’ve kicked around the idea for awhile now but weren’t quite sure how to go about it. How much? How often? Tied to jobs? Based on behavior? What can they use their money for? What do we still buy for them?
I’ve asked countless of friends how do you do it? You know, pay your kids? And during one way-too-late night of chit chat over drinks and dip with two fab friends, I finally got the lightbulb-ding about allowances.

Apparently, my kids heart cheesy piggy banks. Who knew?

Our kids already do chores. Dishes, laundry, garbage, beds, rooms, toys, dust. And of course, the dog. Do we sound mean? I promise they still have time to play. In one of my favorite Mama’s words (you know who you are), these jobs earn their place in the family. They help out, chip in and clean up because we’re a family and that’s just what we do. So for now, as part of the because we’re a family mantra, we’ll share our money with our kids, no strings attached.
One thing that we knew was that we wanted to teach our children how to be money-responsible in a way that I strive to be. Admittedly, I lack this skill. I probably shouldn’t even have a credit card. My impulse control, while better than it used to be, still kind of sucks. My friends taught me about “Share Save Spend” which is a pure genius model for money prioritizing and planning. I especially loved the focus on Share, or giving to charity.
Our kids have been filling up their Tzedakah boxes for years. But they were just moving coins from our pockets into theirs. Now that we’ve started giving them their own money they’re really getting it.

The sweetest witch. Ever.

So what in the world does all of this have to do with Halloween? Have no fear friends. I’m coming full circle here, I promise. We started allowances Share Save Spend style with just enough time for Kayli to use her Save and Spend money to buy this year’s coveted witch costume with her own money. On the table was, of course, last year’s costume if she decided that she’d rather use her money another way. But she did end up choosing to buy her own costume and she’s so very proud of herself. And I have to say that I’m so very proud of her, too.

Happy Halloween!

It seems to me that not celebrating Halloween wouldn’t do anything to up our Jewish-ness scale. But calling charitable donations “tzedakah” and teaching our kids the meaning and value of tzedakah does. So I guess as a family we’re doing our best to focus on the “dos” of our Judaism.

So that’s us. Still “real” Jews. With jack-o-lanterns on our front porch. And tzedakah boxes on our shelves. And it all fits together perfectly like puzzle pieces. Maybe even pieces of a gasp Halloween puzzle!