Jan 7, 2005
Metro-Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Is Halloween a Good Idea for Sikhs?
Before You Celebrate Halloween By Sukhmandir Khalsa

Halloween in America

Halloween is an autumn holiday with both secular and religious overtones. In America it’s hard to ignore Halloween1 especially if you have children. Commonly, during the entire month of October, school classroom art projects focus on Halloween. Stores display Halloween candy, masks, costumes, and assorted knickknacks. Sikh immigrant’s new to America may be wondering what Halloween is all about. Festivities occur October 31st. Traditionally after the sun has set children in costumes go house to house and "Trick or Treat" for candy. Sikh families with young children may wonder whether it’s a good idea to let children participate. Before making such a decision it’s a good idea to have all the facts.

Halloween and Paganism

Halloween has its roots in ancient European Pagan harvest rites and the Gaelic festival of Samhein. The word Halloween comes from an ancient Celtic term Eallra Halgen Aefen which translates to mean All Hallows Eve or the evening before All Saints Day2. Ancient Pagans believed that spirits of the dead would wander at harvest time and could spoil crops. In a bid to pacify the spirits of the deceased, Pagans attempted to masquerade as the dead on All Hallows Eve by blackening their faces or donning death masks. They sacrificed farm animals and cast the bones of the slaughtered beasts into bonfires to appease the spirits and ward them away from their fields. A skull or skeleton might be displayed in a window along with lanterns carved from hollowed out rutabagas roots. Pagans today continue to observe Samhein3 as an occasion to honor ancestors.

Halloween as a Religious Holiday

Halloween is the Eve of All Saints Day celebrated by modern Catholics on November 1st. Originally celebrated around the time of Easter, All Saints Day dates back to the fourth century as a Catholic day of commemoration for Christian martyrs. In the ninth century Pope Gregory III changed the date to coincide with the Pagan harvest festival. All Saints Day4 is a Holy Day of Obligation for Catholics and attending mass is required.

Halloween the "Trick or Treat" Holiday

Halloween is celebrated October 31st anytime of day but especially after dark. Adults often attend masquerade parties. Children traditionally dress up in costumes and go out after sundown to "Trick or Treat" door to door while carrying a bag for collecting candy. In early America, "Trick or Treat" meant exactly that. Young men roamed the country side visiting farmsteads and threatening to play tricks on farmers such as turning over an outhouse or throwing eggs unless they received treats like home a baked pie or cookies. Modern day Halloween is a highly commercialized event involving sales of spooky Halloween paraphernalia and party items such as bags of candy, masks, costumes, toy spiders, black cats, and pumpkins. Jack O Lanterns carved from pumpkin shells and lit by candles are a popular tradition because Halloween festivities take place after dark. Traditional creepy costumes like skeletons, witches, wizards, ghosts, ghouls, goblins, vampires, werewolves, black cats, are popular. Modern Costumes may be based on movie, television, and cartoon characters such as super heroes, pirates, and princesses.

Concerns and Cautionary Measures

Because of the nature of the holiday anything can happen on Halloween. Poison and sharp objects hidden in treats are terrible tricks which have been played in past years and are always a possibility. Parents are advised to accompany any child going house to house and check all treats for trickery and tampering before allowing them to be eaten. Many parents opt for private parties rather than risk letting their children "Trick or Treat" door to door. Pets, especially black cats, are sometimes targeted and should be kept indoors.

Halloween and the 1984 Delhi Massacre of Sikhs

Halloween and All Saints day are poignant reminders to Sikhs of the 1984 Delhi Massacre. Many thousands of Sikhs lost their lives in the Delhi riots5 following the assassination of Indira Ghandi in retaliation for her 1984 June attack on the Sikhs in the Golden Temple. On October 31, 1984, marauding mobs bent on mayhem and murder caroused through the streets carrying clubs, knives, and kerosene randomly killing Sikhs. On November 1, 1984, the rioting spread like flames being fanned by a hot wind. The carnage lasted four days before efforts were made to bring the bloodshed under control. Police looked the other way or stood by watching innocent families butchered. No one has ever been held accountable.

Deciding How to Spend Your Holidays

A Sikh has to come to a decision about how to conduct life based on the understanding and willingness to follow Sikh principles. Ask yourself in which direction you desire to grow. Reflect on how your actions affect others ultimately. The initiated Khalsa Sikh has no ties to festivities outside of Sikhism. However celebrating with others is not considered a breach of conduct in the strictest sense. If you wish to excuse or exclude yourself do so with humility, so that you cause no hurt. If a situation occurs which does not allow you to bow out gracefully, but will not violate your oath as Khalsa and you find yourself reluctantly joining in activities with family or friends you’d rather not be part of, do so whole heartedly with love. A true Sikh remains focused on the relationship with the divine no matter what activities are taking place, whether sacred or secular.

October 31st is an occasion many Sikhs will want to observe in commemoration of loved ones lost in the Delhi riots6. When deciding how to spend your holidays, if you choose to participate in Halloween consider making it an opportunity to show the world Khalsa traditions:

* Make your costume the dress of the traditional Sikh7 warrior by wearing Bana8.
* Greet Trick or Treaters with the sacred sounds of Amrit Kirtan9.
* Make your Jack O Lantern a Sikh O Lantern10 and carve it with a Sikh symbol to commemorate the fallen Sikhs of 1984.
* Carry on the tradition of langar11 by distributing sacred sweets made with love and meditation, like naam ladoo,12 to whomever comes to your door.
* Hand out leaflets with your treats so parents know they are safe explaining who and what a Sikh13 is


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1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Re: Is Halloween a Good Idea for Sikhs?

Soul_Jyot ji

True to her constant level of reason Sukhmandir Kaur has written a brilliant assessment. Thank you for posting it. :happykaur:


Jul 23, 2004
Re: Is Halloween a Good Idea for Sikhs?

I am a School worker where Sikh culture is taught.
We celebrate Halloween with the premise taht yes there are spirits out there and they did not get MUKTI due to their desire anger greed attachment and ego so they are waiting for rebirth.
They can't hurt us if believe in Waheguru.
Due to our faith we know they exists but we don't worship them--just have fun with them.
Did you say boo? AHAHAHAHHAH~


Jun 1, 2004
Halloween & The Sikhs

Halloween is a global festival which is cheerfully celebrated with kids trick or treating, people mocking and gimmicking ghosts, ghouls, goblins and demons. For Sikhs on the other hand Halloween carries a real grave significance, of real ghouls and demons, who massacred Sikhs in October and November 1984.

On Halloween, 31st October 1984 – Indira Gandhi the Indian Prime Minister was assassinated. What followed her death was inhumane, depraved and despicable, some call it genocide others ethnic cleansing, I’ll let the readers decide what they feel. The world silently turned a blind eye to these events and rather mourned the death of Mrs Gandhi.

Sikhs were burnt alive, raped, made refugees, murdered on mass, Gurdwaras attacked and Sikh businesses singled out for attacks. All this happened in what Sikhs at the time saw as ‘mother India .’ What was the crime of these Sikhs? What had they done to bring out the demons of Halloween?

The bodyguards of Mrs Gandhi who assassinated her, were Sikhs, so the orchestrated carnage was planned to ‘teach the Sikhs a lesson.’ These children, mothers, daughters, brothers, sisters, fathers and grandparents had no link to the Sikh assassins. In the times of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Jee, Guru Jee saw the destruction of the Mughal ruler Baabar and said,

There was so much slaughter that the people screamed. Didn't You feel compassion, Lord? O Creator Lord, You are the Master of all. If some powerful man strikes out against another man, then no one feels any grief in their mind. But if a powerful tiger attacks a flock of sheep and kills them, then its master must answer for it. This priceless country has been laid to waste and defiled by dogs, and no one pays any attention to the dead (Limb 360, Sri Guru Granth Sahib Jee)

These words ring true of what happened to Sikhs across India following Mrs Gandhi’s death, to the extent that Guru Sahibs words above aptly describe the attacks on these common, everyday Sikhs. Sikhs were brutally and clinically attacked in cities across India , Delhi , Kanpur , Patna and the list goes on, over 10,000 Sikhs died between 31st October – 3rd November, 1984, many more refugees lived on with nightmares of what they witnessed.

Hitler killed the Jews in gas chambers which were in secret locations but in India Sikhs were killed in public. The Jews have pursued Nazi’s for these genocidal acts, today the culprits of Sikh genocide walk free, let’s try and achieve some justice. Let’s remember these Sikhs and support the surviving families and widows, so the pain of Halloween can be lessened.

Harjinder Singh

Mai Harinder Kaur

Oct 6, 2006
British Columbia, Canada
In my opinion, the short answer is NO.

The long answer. I will try not to just repeat the usual here.

First, Halloween is really a very old holiday dating back to antiquity, the sacred celebration of the Old (pre-Christian) Religion of the Celts.

November Eve, All Hallows' Eve, the Gaelic fire festival of Samhain, now generally called Halloween, represents the summer's end, when the Earth Goddess turns over her reign to the Horned God of the Hunt, the transition from life to death, from an agrarian time to one of hunting, from summer to winter, from warmth to coldness, from light to darkness. See: http://www.sacred-texts.com/bos/bos042.htm

Halloween is a Christian perversion of this event, held sacred even today by those who follow this life path. I think this needs to be respected as we supposedly respect all religions.

Second, is there not enough evil in the world without our setting aside a day to celebrate it? If we used the day as a time to reflect on our own fears, groundless or otherwise, it might be useful. Does anyone really do this?

Third, as has been mentioned, this date has particular significance in Sikh history. On this day, Mrs. Indira Gandhi was executed by Shaheed Beant Singh and Shaheed Satwant Singh. On this day, we should remember their sacrifice for the Sikh nation and perhaps celebrate the fact that such people have existed (and I believe still exist) among those in Guru Khalsa Panth. Certainly, going house to house demanding candy does these shaheeds no honour. (BTW, I mention that the anti-Sikh Genocide actually started on the next day, All Saints' Day in the Christian calendar.)

I hold Sukhmandir Kaur Khalsa in the highest esteem, both professionally and as a friend. I do disagree with her on costuming for Halloween, however, I do not believe our bana is appropriate as a costume. It holds deep meaning for some of us and I find this disrespectful. If our children are to dress up in costumes, let them be something secular. What's wrong with dressing as a fire fighter or a prince or princess? Or whatever is inoffensively popular this year?

If you do participate in handing out trick-or-treats, I do like her idea of having kirtan playing in the background.

At school is another situation altogether. I never kept my son out of any celebrations at his school. It seems unnecessarily cruel to separate out a child from his classmates' fun, especially one who is already clearly "different." The extent of his participation was up to him. Truthfully, I disliked these more for the high sugar content than for the meaning of the holiday.

Re=reading this, I realise that I sound a bit like an old fuddy-duddy. Maybe I am, but I held these views long ago when I was perhaps just a fuddy-duddy, not an old one.

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