As we celebrate Thanksgiving, the lovely holiday when families are gathered along with close friends and guests, when the spirit of this special holiday is filling us with relaxation and with sentiments of joy and love, let’s reflect briefly about one of our children’s favorite holiday that precedes it, Halloween.
We’ll concentrate mainly on the Hebrew aspects of the name and avoid the controversy regarding its origin which includes those who claim that is a Christianized feast initially influenced by Celtic harvest festivals with possible pagan roots, and those who claim that it has has solely Christian roots.
The name Halloween is very likely to have hidden Hebrew roots. It also called ‘All Hallows’ Eve, or ‘All Saints’ Eve’ and translated as such, word-for-word into today’s Hebrew. This holiday originally initiates the triduum of Allhallowtide, the time in the liturgical year dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all the faithful departed believers. The remembering of the dead is also in the heart of Protestant traditions alongside other traditions and customs. Our interest is in the name ‘hallows’ ‘saints’. There is a similar biblical Hebrew word that is likely to be the origin of the name Halloween – ‘cha•llal’ or ‘ha•llal’. This is the word used in the Bible for a slain person, mainly for those who died fighting to protect an important or holy cause. So the holiday is mainly to remember the fallen hallows, the saints.
The masks and customs used on Halloween are because within Allhallowtide, the traditional focus of All Hallows’ Eve revolves around the theme of using ‘humor and ridicule to confront the power of death’.
From this developed the tradition of ‘Trick or treat’. According to a recent survey about 80% of American adults are planning to give out candies to visiting children on Halloween and 93% of the children plan to go ‘Trick or treating’.
Despite it popularity this custom raises an unpleasant ethical question. ‘Trick or treat’ is a form of an otherwise blackmail, quite identical to the mafia’s ‘protection’ system where one says: ‘give me something good or else I’m going to hurt you’.
We can only hope that our children would not internalize these ideas as educational lessons for their future conduct.