My Post-Holocaust American Halloween

autumn leavesMy mom was a European-born Holocaust survivor, and trick-or-treating was out of the question for her children when my sisters and I were growing up in the late 1950s and early 60s. Halloween, to her, was based on some saint’s holiday twisted into an occasion for anti-Semitic pranks and graffiti. Some of our Jewish day school classmates were allowed to knock on doors collecting money for Unicef, as an acceptable Jewish alternative, transforming the holiday into an occasion for tzedaka, but this too was forbidden us. Of course some of our classmates were from families we thought permissive, and observed Halloween in full regalia, as an American holiday, though I don’t think they felt comfortable bragging about it in school. We were told we had Purim, a superior holiday, because it was an occasion for dressing up, but also for giving shalach manot, rather than taking things from people.