A Halloween Conversation

Because my kids are homeschooled, the pressure around holidays is not as intense. But when the neighbors in our new neighborhood went all out and decorated their home with pumpkins, ghosts hanging in the trees, and a two-story, inflatable Frankenstein, I knew this was the year we would talk about Halloween. My children are very fond of their next-door playmate, a little boy the same age as my oldest first-grader.

“Why is Ryan’s house all decorated?”

A few days earlier, I enjoyed a visit with another mom. Her approach was to tell her children, “That is their holiday, and we have ours.” She took away some bat and pumpkin stickers they had received, and that was that. I knew that would not be my own approach.

As much as I want my children to have a solid Islamic identity, I do not want them to be crippled by an attitude of isolation and superiority over other people. I do not want them to view their society with the lonely and paralyzing perspective that everyone else is the other. They will never be able to be the neighbors that Islam teaches us to be, the friends, the citizens, the activists, if they do not feel a genuine kinship, humility, and connection with the people around them.

At the same time, they must believe firmly, strongly that the guidance they have in front of them is the truth. Not everything is OK, not everything goes. To each his own is not a maxim that a believer in God can live by. There is one straight path. We bear witness to that every single day. It is a fine line, this distinction, but such a crucial one.

While the permissibility of Muslims trick-or-treating is up for discussion and I have not researched the arguments for or against, I believe that it is not something that is worth the time or attention of my children and does not mesh with the values they are growing up with.

So I answered in short sentences. I paused before answering, taking my time, so I could think about what meanings I wanted to communicate. I wanted them to ask the questions and direct the discussion, so they could feel ownership over the answers. We are very used to this purposeful, meandering style of discussion in our home, and my children are growing up loving it.

“They are celebrating a holiday called Halloween. A lot of people celebrate it. But a lot of people don’t, like us.”

Why don’t some people celebrate it?

We parked the car in our driveway. I left the heat on, since I knew we would be sitting there for a while.

“Because there are meanings behind it that don’t agree with Islam, that aren’t pleasing to Allah.”

What kind of meanings?

“Well, it came originally from paganism, religions that don’t believe in God and worship idols and other things in creation. It also has a lot of things associated with it that we don’t want to be a part of, like imitating the devil, scaring people, dressing up, and ghosts. Some kids go out and dress up and go door to door saying, “Trick or Treat,” but a lot of other families don’t like their kids to participate because of those meanings.”

I saw the eyes of my children linger on their neighbors’ decorated house as they thought about it.

Then why does Ryan celebrate it?

This is where the challenge lies for us, the parents of American Muslim children. How do we make them proud of their faith, confident in the differences between Islam and other faiths, but without developing disdain or separation from their friends and neighbors?

“Well, think about Eid. What if I told you that Eid was just about candy and pretty dresses and presents? Is that true? Or is their a deeper meaning behind our holiday?”

Eid is more than just that.

My eldest summarized the significance of the two Eids: celebrating the end of Ramadan, being happy that we are Muslim, celebrating the season of Hajj, and the sacrifice of Abraham.

“Yes, exactly! But you know, some Muslims don’t read or think very deeply, and they actually do think Eid is just about dressing up and eating good food. I want candy, I want dresses! YUM YUM YUM!”

Giggling.

“In the same way, a lot of our friends and neighbors may not think too much about the deeper meaning of Halloween. They just like it because they get to dress up and eat candy and do fun things.”

I say each of their names, watch them nod, registering this.

“That’s OK, they are still our friends and neighbors. We care for them very much. We are all human and make mistakes, and the Muslim is always merciful with other people’s mistakes because that is what Allah loves.

“Maybe someday, we can talk to them about it and tell them what we believe in and why we don’t celebrate it. But for now, because we know, because we read and discuss a lot in our family, because we have the Quran, and because we think a lot about things and try our best to find out what pleases Allah and what doesn’t, we know that Halloween isn’t something good for us.”

Our conversation continues. When you’re older, we can learn some more about it, maybe watch the History Channel’s program on Halloween. We talk some more, I rehash the answers in different words and from different angles, and you are satisfied. The jack-o-lanterns and candy no longer look so enticing to your eyes.  There is something deeper in your small, big hearts to give you strength. Most importantly, you have gone one more step in making sense of your world, your obligations, and your relationships with other people.

                                                                                                   Maha Ezzeddine

Maha is a homeschooling mother of four children (6, 4, 2, and 1) and lives in Michigan. She is an active MAS worker and loves being in nature, writing, and working for Islam. She blogs occasionally at Even Sparrows Pray.

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  • Um Lubayah

    I loved this, masha Allah.

  • Um Lubayah

    I loved this, masha Allah.

  • Miriam

    MashAllah, this was beautiful. Thank you for giving me some pointers to eventually use when my daughter gets older. May Allah reward you for taking care of your family according to His commands. Ameen!

  • Miriam

    MashAllah, this was beautiful. Thank you for giving me some pointers to eventually use when my daughter gets older. May Allah reward you for taking care of your family according to His commands. Ameen!

  • Ferial

    Masha Allah, Maha you make these type of conversations seem so simple. Alhamdulillah your kids are blessed with a wise mom. Jazak Allahu Khair for sharing.

  • Ferial

    Masha Allah, Maha you make these type of conversations seem so simple. Alhamdulillah your kids are blessed with a wise mom. Jazak Allahu Khair for sharing.

  • miriam

    I am wondering: Do you answer the door to trick or treaters then? I don’t know if the children in my building will come by my apartment, but I don’t want to answer the door….what should I do that will be respectful and appopriate? I feel like by answering the door, it is showing the wrong message to my daughter and my niece. Then they (3.5 and 4.5 yrs old girls) might get confused as to why the other kids are dressed up. Should I put a sign on the door? What are you mothers doing?

  • miriam

    I am wondering: Do you answer the door to trick or treaters then? I don’t know if the children in my building will come by my apartment, but I don’t want to answer the door….what should I do that will be respectful and appopriate? I feel like by answering the door, it is showing the wrong message to my daughter and my niece. Then they (3.5 and 4.5 yrs old girls) might get confused as to why the other kids are dressed up. Should I put a sign on the door? What are you mothers doing?

  • Maha

    Miriam, EVERY year my husband and I debate this. I’m of the opinion that our neighbors will understand and respect our opting out of halloween celebrations, and especially if we leave our front light off, the neighbors who know us will not come knocking. It is probably quite different though in an apartment complex because it opens to all the other doors.

    My husband though thinks that it’s not polite not to open the door to our neighbors, and it’s not being kind and welcoming. So, my suggestion was that we watch a movie in another room with our kids (maybe in their bedroom so we can close the door), then he can go ahead and answer the door and offer candy to the kids.

    In my mind, that creates the dilemma–do we leave our front light on or off? :) On: Please come knock on our door! Off: don’t come unless you are kids without their parents or lack ettiquete, in which case we will open the door, smile and give you candy.

    It’s a tricky one! :)

  • Maha

    Miriam, EVERY year my husband and I debate this. I’m of the opinion that our neighbors will understand and respect our opting out of halloween celebrations, and especially if we leave our front light off, the neighbors who know us will not come knocking. It is probably quite different though in an apartment complex because it opens to all the other doors.

    My husband though thinks that it’s not polite not to open the door to our neighbors, and it’s not being kind and welcoming. So, my suggestion was that we watch a movie in another room with our kids (maybe in their bedroom so we can close the door), then he can go ahead and answer the door and offer candy to the kids.

    In my mind, that creates the dilemma–do we leave our front light on or off? :) On: Please come knock on our door! Off: don’t come unless you are kids without their parents or lack ettiquete, in which case we will open the door, smile and give you candy.

    It’s a tricky one! :)

  • Coniqua

    Maha,

    I enjoyed your post, and your thoughtful responses to your children’s inquiries. Another possible solution may be just not to be home on the night of Halloween, go out to dinner, visit other friends who aren’t celebrating or hang out at the Masjid. Would your husband thing it’s impolite to answer the door, but not give out candy?

    On another note, will your kids be decorating your house for Eid? I’m trying to establish that for my son, so that we have an opportunity to also show our pride in our holidays. It may also prompt conversations with your neighbors when their kids ask why your house is so nicely decorated. Should we as neighbors invite non-Muslim kids over to our festivities or would it be rude to expect them to attend an Eid party when we wouldn’t attend a Christmas party?

  • Coniqua

    Maha,

    I enjoyed your post, and your thoughtful responses to your children’s inquiries. Another possible solution may be just not to be home on the night of Halloween, go out to dinner, visit other friends who aren’t celebrating or hang out at the Masjid. Would your husband thing it’s impolite to answer the door, but not give out candy?

    On another note, will your kids be decorating your house for Eid? I’m trying to establish that for my son, so that we have an opportunity to also show our pride in our holidays. It may also prompt conversations with your neighbors when their kids ask why your house is so nicely decorated. Should we as neighbors invite non-Muslim kids over to our festivities or would it be rude to expect them to attend an Eid party when we wouldn’t attend a Christmas party?

  • Zainab

    I loved reading this conversation! It’s the perfect explanation for young children…JAK for sharing

  • Zainab

    I loved reading this conversation! It’s the perfect explanation for young children…JAK for sharing

  • miriam

    No trick or treaters came by…phew!

    But I was able to converse with some neighbors I am rather friendly with and told them we aren’t introducing it to our daughter. I think I got away with the whole Halloween thing this time because my daughter is so excited for Eid on Sunday. She has her gifts, we’re making decorations and making our annual Eid candy bags for the little cousins in the family. So we’ll see next year!

    Now if I could hear something about birthdays…..

  • miriam

    No trick or treaters came by…phew!

    But I was able to converse with some neighbors I am rather friendly with and told them we aren’t introducing it to our daughter. I think I got away with the whole Halloween thing this time because my daughter is so excited for Eid on Sunday. She has her gifts, we’re making decorations and making our annual Eid candy bags for the little cousins in the family. So we’ll see next year!

    Now if I could hear something about birthdays…..

  • Nikki

    MashAllah! Maha, you have such a beautiful way of talking to your kids. It is such an example. I miss getting regular doses of your wisdom!

  • Nikki

    MashAllah! Maha, you have such a beautiful way of talking to your kids. It is such an example. I miss getting regular doses of your wisdom!

  • Marwa

    I love you, Maha!

  • Marwa

    I love you, Maha!


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