Five Reasons Purim Kicks Halloween’s Butt
At first glance, Purim is Halloween’s red-headed step-sister; an inferior, wannabe holiday. And that might have been true back when you worried which lunch table to sit at and wondered whether your crush even knew you were alive. Now that you’re worried about paying for college, and wondering if your kids will notice if you give their loud, annoying toys to Goodwill, Purim is the superior holiday. Not convinced? Let me explain the virtues of Purim.
- Your Kid Isn’t Expected to Attend School in Costume
I find it exhausting to get my kids fully dressed, with their backpacks on, their teeth brushed, and out the door on time in the morning. (I’ve completely given up on brushing their hair.) At least Purim doesn’t make it any harder than it already is. Unless your kids attend a day school or a yeshiva, you don’t have to add the costume/school dynamic to your long list of extra things to deal with.
Halloween is another story. First you have to find out if your kid’s school lets students attend in costume. If they do, you have to know what day Halloween falls on, lest your kid suffer the fate of being the only one dressed up (or not dressed up). And if it falls on a weekend, G-d help you. You will have to figure out whether the kids are supposed to come to school in costume on Friday, Monday, or not at all. Purim is the clear winner here.
- No Winter Coat Necessary
Purim requires only that the kids wear a costume of their choosing indoors, be it at a Megillah reading, a Purim Spiel, or a Purim Carnival. If it’s a particularly crisp spring day, you could even opt to help your kid don her costume in the restroom. No jacket, no frostbite, no problem.Hell hath no fury like the child forced to wear a coat over his Halloween costume. I’ll take an indoor Purim event over trick or treating any day.
- No Candy
Purim is known for tasty hamentaschen. My Bubby used to bake them from scratch, put a dozen or so in a shoe box, and mail them to me and each of her other grandchildren. They tasted like home and family and butter. While they weren’t exactly a health food, they didn’t have any ingredients with more than four syllables, artificial dyes, or flavors not found in nature.
Halloween, on the other hand, is a candy bonanza. Can we all agree that lots of candy plus kids adds up to major stress for parents? Possible stressful scenarios include:
- Parents secretly eat the candy and then have to lie about how it disappeared. Also, “I am so glad I binged on two dozen fun-sized Kit Kats!” said no adult, ever.
- Parents play the role of warden, rationing out the candy, one piece per day, until Valentine’s Day, suffering daily interrogation from their sugar-addicted spawn. Is there still candy left? Is it time for my candy? Did you give my sister my Twizzlers? Where did you hide it?
- Parents let the kids eat as much candy as they want, and suffer the consequences, which include but are not limited to: vomiting, tummy aches, sugar highs, sugar crashes.No matter how you approach it, no one wins when your kid comes home with a sack full of brightly wrapped high fructose corn syrup. Purim for the win.
- A Focus on Giving, Not Hoarding
On Purim, it is a mitzvah to send mishloach manot, which means literally, “the sending of portions.” This entails creating small packages of at least two different types of food, and delivering them to friends and neighbors. I love the idea of instilling the values of giving and kindness in my kids through the tradition of mishloach manot.I can’t get fully endorse teachings of Halloween, however. The imperative to dress up like a dead/scary/make-believe/sexy person, knock on strangers’ doors at night, get the candy to which you feel entitled, hopefully say thank you, and repeat until you have as much candy as you can carry just doesn’t feel like a mitzvah. Purim wins again.
- The lesson makes sense
Once they’re old enough to understand, you (or religious school, or the fabulous, free PJ Library books), can offer an age-appropriate explanation of Purim; The Persian Jews were going to be killed at the hands of King Ahasuerus and his evil sidekick, Haman, until a couple of heroes, Queen Esther and her uncle Mordecai, spoke up on behalf of the Jews. We were saved. We celebrate.Now, let’s review the lessons of Halloween. I’ve been celebrating it for 38 years and I’m still trying to understand them. According to Wikipedia, it’s a day to remember the dead. In reality, it’s a day to dress up in a costume, knock on strangers’ doors, and ask for candy. 364 days a year, we try to impart certain lessons on our kids: We plead with them to wear weather-appropriate clothes, we model good manners (texting or calling before knocking on a friends’ door), we encourage them to use discretion when talking to strangers, and we draw the line at letting them take food from anyone unfamiliar. But on Halloween, we tell them to ignore all of that, and encourage them to fill a bag with a substance that’s eight times more addictive than cocaine. Purim wins by a landslide.
- Getting Drunk is a Mitzvah
According to ancient Jewish law, on Purim, adults are supposed to get drunk. According to Chabad.org, despite some discrepancies on the details, “All Halachic authorities are unanimous in ruling that it is a mitzvah to drink, and to drink to excess on Purim.” This isn’t walking 20 paces behind your kids while sipping from your flask or “water bottle” every so often. This is full-on debauchery, with your rabbi’s approval. I went to a Purim spiel a few years ago where the rabbis starred in their own version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show and temple board members came around with shots for all the adults in the audience. Halloween vs. Purim? There’s just no comparison.
I challenge you to show me a sane parent who prefers Halloween over Purim. Purim is full of teachable moments. Halloween requires you to explain to your kids why, on this one day, they can ignore everything you ever tried to teach them. Halloween is fights about coats, walking around in cold weather, worrying whether there will be a razor blade in the candy, and dealing with sugar-addicted kids for anywhere from days to months. The worst thing that happens on Purim, on the other hand, is you come home from a Purim carnival with a pet goldfish, the goldfish dies, and then you have to either scramble to buy a new one, or explain death to your kid before you were ready. And maybe you’re hung over.