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This Festival Is Not For You And Me: Talking To Young Muslim Children About Halloween

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halloween

“I wish trick or treating were allowed, and I don’t get why it’s wrong. It’s just for fun!”

These are the words of a Muslim first grader during an open discussion about Halloween.

It is no secret that children feel drawn towards the nature of Halloween festivities. Which child doesn’t enjoy free candy and playful costumes? I would even argue that it is pretty irresistible for adults, too.

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In the past, I surveyed Muslim parents who allowed their children to partake in Halloween activities, and they generally summarized the reason in one word – harmless.

Does wearing a Pixar costume and tagging along the neighborhood trick or treat party pose serious harm or threat to our child’s religion and identity?

Dark Origins

Well, let’s briefly unpack Halloween from a historical and religious perspective.

All Hallows’ Eve is one the most significant pagan festivals of Samhain, coinciding with the harvest season’s end and the beginning of winter. Halloween was commemorated by Roman Catholics, Anglicans, and Lutherans. The Celtics believed that on October 31st, the Lord of the Dead gathered all of the dead souls from the previous year, allowing them to pay their loved ones a brief visit. Black cats were sacrificed in ritual acts in medieval Europe to continue this custom. Pope Gregory IV added Halloween to the church calendar in the ninth century, and ordered that the day and vigil be widely observed as a way to commemorate martyrs and, eventually, saints on a single day. Halloween was thought to be the period when unsaved souls gathered.1Levinson, S., Mack, S., & Reinhardt, D. (n.d.). >Halloween As a Consumption Experience | ACR. Halloween As a Consumption Experience | ACR. Retrieved September 12th, 2022, from https://www.acrwebsite.org/volumes/7300/volumes/v19/NA-19/full

Fast forward to the 20th century, and Halloween has become a mainstream holiday that is deeply incorporated into American culture and primarily regarded as a night of costumes, candy, superstitious spells, and pranks.2Levinson, S., Mack, S., & Reinhardt, D. (n.d.). >Halloween As a Consumption Experience | ACR. Halloween As a Consumption Experience | ACR. Retrieved September 12th, 2022, from https://www.acrwebsite.org/volumes/7300/volumes/v19/NA-19/full

If you’d like to learn more about the history of Halloween and the origins of the Celts, I recommend Lisa Morton’s books on Halloween literature.

Talking To Our Children About Halloween

As Muslim parents, we can see several problematic themes associated with Halloween that heavily contradict our faith. From paganism (shirk) to black magic, and flawed beliefs of the unseen, partaking in Halloween festivities is far from harmless.

Some parents may argue that the historical examination of Halloween has evolved into a modern-day celebration of material gratification. Although I agree that Halloween has become a product of consumerism and childhood commercialization, we can’t ignore the identity creation and extension that is rooted in false beliefs happening at the same time.

So how can we navigate the warm autumn feels subtly woven into Halloween’s religious and social constructs? Better yet, how do we answer our first grader who asked why fun holidays aren’t allowed in Islam?

I always say, let’s go back to the basics to examine three crucial components:

1. Islam over Culture

Mainstream holidays such as Halloween are a prime opportunity to allow our young children to practice their Islamic values. It is the time to put our testimony into action – ‘there is no deity worthy of worship except for Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)‘. We can briefly explain the historical evolution of Halloween and encourage them to conclude why Halloween is problematic to our faith. Children are a lot smarter than we give them credit.

Actionable step: The story of Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) isn’t only relevant during Eid-al-Adha. Halloween is also an excellent time to revisit his early days when he felt conflicted with the idol worshippers and searched for Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) everywhere he went. Try to incorporate how paganism is a big sin that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) does not forgive. Therefore, we should stay far from it in any capacity.

2. Mindset Shift

Before talking to our children about Halloween, we must address our inner beliefs and thoughts about what the Halloween experience means to us. Children can see right through the adults in their lives. If the parents aren’t convinced about the problematic notion of Halloween, they will not be able to effectively guide their children towards critical thought and tawheed. My suggestion is to take some time for yourself to learn and research Islam and the topic in order to be able to finalize your thoughts before discussing it with your child(ren).

Actionable step: Parenting our children begins with parenting ourselves. Research has shown that we tend to mirror and meet our inner child’s needs vicariously through our children. Suppose you missed out on your childhood experiences growing up because your parents didn’t allow you to participate in Halloween. In that case, it’s time to do some soul searching, seek knowledge, renew your intentions, and ask Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) for help and guidance.

3. Reward vs Guilt

Just as our first grader articulated earlier, our children might feel a sense of social deprivation during these times. All feelings are valid. As parents, we want to empathize with and acknowledge our children’s struggles rather than shame them. We want to highlight the massive reward attributed to leaving something for no other reason except for Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He); especially when it’s hard. This is how we breed taqwa in our children from a young age. In addition, we can provide different activities that will help them appropriately release these feelings.

Actionable step: It can be helpful to engage and create room for children to live the experiences they long for in healthy ways as a preventative practice. For example, you can ask them to re-imagine a world without Halloween, and this can be a fun visual exercise to help them process their feelings and thoughts.

4. Reclaim the parameters 

Sometimes we become so caught up in protecting our children against haram that we unduly emphasize it over what’s halal. I understand that it is for good measure. However, we want to take a balanced approach when educating our children about Islamic rulings. Our religion is far from restrictive; everything is halal until proven haram, and there are plenty of halal directives for every haram. These fundamental principles will help our children tread life in a conscious, holistic way that pleases Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). In our case, eating candy and dressing up with appropriate characters is fine as long as it is outside the time of Halloween.

Actionable step: Whenever there is a desire that your child expresses, always reference the religion and make it a habit to find out what Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and his Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said about the matter. Keep it short, sweet and to the point. When done right, this process will create healthy learning habits in your child and ultimately train them to think through their desires and temptations as they continue to develop.

Finally, although cultural hybridity and assimilation heavily influence Western traditions as a result of globalization, we as Muslim parents mustn’t accept mainstream holidays as harmless societal traditions. Children during the early ages are in a critical process of identity formation and development, which is why a passive outlook on Halloween can be harmful. We must take a closer look and analyze anything that may get in the way of building a solid Islamic foundation during the early years.

If you’d like to reference scripts that you can use, take a look at my previous article on talking to Muslim children about Christmas for ideas. In the meantime, you and your child(ren) are welcome to join my popular workshop Halloween is not for you and me. Please find more information here.

May Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) keep our families steadfast on the path that pleases Him. Ameen.

 

Related reading:

Halloween: 10 Tips For Muslim Parents

Halloween: 10 Tips For Muslim Parents

Halloween’s Strange Fruit

Halloween’s Strange Fruit -Ruth Nasrullah

Keep supporting MuslimMatters for the sake of Allah

Alhamdulillah, we're at over 850 supporters. Help us get to 900 supporters this month. All it takes is a small gift from a reader like you to keep us going, for just $2 / month.

The Prophet (SAW) has taught us the best of deeds are those that done consistently, even if they are small. Click here to support MuslimMatters with a monthly donation of $2 per month. Set it and collect blessings from Allah (swt) for the khayr you're supporting without thinking about it.

Eman Ahmed is a Canadian-based educator specializing in child development and early education within the lens of cultural fluency and spiritual enrichment.. When she is not parenting her own children, she is busy helping families in North America simplify conscious and spiritual lifestyles. She is the founder of Winterbloomers. A brave space for primary graders to learn all about bias free and Anti-Racism education. She is also the founder of My Armour. A learning community dedicated to teach children their dua superpowers. Eman is always finding new ways to make quality learning engaging and accessible for Muslim families.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Idress

    October 17, 2022 at 8:58 AM

    Above commentators are trolls who are commenting only to advertise their website.

  2. Idrees

    October 17, 2022 at 9:00 AM

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with kids celebrating Halloween or Christmas, as long as we teach them right and wrong once they grow up. In schools, we cannot have a child left out while everyone else is having fun.

  3. Taha

    October 17, 2022 at 3:58 PM

    salam Brother…..just because children are not morally responsible yet and will not accrue sin for participating in other religions just means it will be harder to stop when they get older.

    for example if we let them eat pork because all the kids are doing it, how do we expect them to stop or realize it is wrong when they grow up.

    more importantly perhaps is that the sin we allow them to commit will be borne by the ones responsible for them ie the parents.

  4. Idrees

    October 18, 2022 at 4:44 AM

    Taha, thanks for your input, but eating pork and celebrating a non-Muslim festival are poles apart. Eating pork is not a fun activity, and a child will not feel left out if they don’t eat pork. Besides, a child will easily stop celebrating Halloween once they’re grown up, as it is for kids.

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