An Israeli Halloween

You can visit the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher, Notre Dame Center or Dormition Abby in Jerusalem, each of which hosts a special mass in celebration of the real reason for Halloween.

October 31, 2014 09:47
2 minute read.
Temple Mount

A visitor walks toward the Dome of the Rock as he enters the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City. (photo credit: REUTERS)

If you happen to be in Israel over Halloween, don’t expect to see any traditional symbols of this popular American celebration unless, of course you are at the  American International School of the French School, both of which have large populations of Americans that continue the traditions with special Halloween costumed festivities. However, what you can do is actually visit the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher, Notre Dame Center or Dormition Abby, in Jerusalem each of which hosts a special mass in celebration of  the real reason for Halloween - the start of a solemn Catholic  feast known as All Saints Day, which is on November 1.

Origins of Halloween and All Saints Day

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The origins of All Hallows Eve, also known as All Saints Day was derived by the Celtic Druids who were priests from a religious order in ancient Gaul and they celebrated the pagan festival of Samhain,  a religious celebration that coincided with the late summer and early fall harvesting of pumpkins and corn. Catholics initially celebrated the anniversary dates of each saint, until the Early Middle Ages when Pope Gregory, in an effort to counteract the Celtic pagan festival, pronounced All Saints Day on November 1  thereby creating one day to commemorate all the departed who have  attained the beautification of a saint. All Saints Day is followed by All Souls Day on November 2 and is celebrated by Catholics as well as many Anglican churches who pray for the departed faithful who might not yet have been purified.  

In most historically Catholic European countries, All Saints Day is a national holiday. Catholic believers traditionally visit the graves of beloved family members during the All Saints Day feast.

Unlike Catholics, Protestant Christians generally consider all Christian believers as saints and therefore don’t generally observe All Saints Day. If they do, most likely it is because they wish to remember all Christians both past and present.

Do Jews celebrate Halloween?

Certainly, many secular and non Orthodox Jews celebrate the non-religious traditions of Halloween including dressing up in costume, attending parties, and trick or treating. However, according to Jewish tradition, Jews are actually prohibited from celebrating the holiday.


The book of Leviticus 18:3 notes that Jews are not suppose to share in what is known as “gentile customs.” Throughout Jewish history this specific statement was used by Jewish leaders  to determine what was permissible within the Jewish community and what was not allowed. Further, the Ten Commandments also states that Jews are forbidden to worship idols, a pagan tradition, and the Celtics were very involved in Pagan worship. Accordingly, Halloween, with roots in both Pagan and Christian traditions is actually forbidden by Jewish ‘halacha’ or law. In modern times, Halloween is considered a secular holiday and for this reason many non religious Jews will celebrate many of the non religious traditions of Halloween.  

All Saints Day in Jerusalem

If you go:

Special liturgical celebrations in celebration of All Saints Day include the following masses:

Saturday, 1st November 2014:

Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher - Holy Tomb
6:30 Solemn mass celebrated in Latin and Italian

Notre Dame Center (New Gate)
18:30 Solemn mass in English

Dormition Abbey
10:00 Solemn mass (German)

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