Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Ebook of the Week - Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night

 Rogers, Nicholas. Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night
New York : Oxford University Press, 2002.

In this history of Halloween, Rogers emphasizes how many different forms it has taken, even to the present day, when it is part fall festival, part children’s event (costumes, trick or treat), part adult party time, and above all an enormously profitable commercial enterprise. Some religious groups, such as the Puritans in colonial days and evangelical Christianity in modern times, have rejected Halloween with its celebration of witches, goblins, and other unholy creatures. Rogers traces the complex origins of Halloween from the Celtic autumn festival Samhain through its merger with the Christian observances of All Saints and All Souls Days in the British Isles and its nineteenth-century migration to North America. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries it was often an occasion for pranks that at other times would be considered vandalism. After 1920 or so, there was an effort to tone down the “tricks” and make Halloween more of a children’s holiday focusing on “treats.” Even that has been modulated in more recent years by societal fears of adulterated candy and razor blades in apples. In later chapters Rogers discusses Hollywood’s treatment of Halloween, gay street festivals, and the intersection of Halloween with Mexico’s Day of the Dead (celebrated November 1 and 2) in the southwestern United States. This is a very readable account and has quite a few intriguing illustrations.   

Previewed by Jack Ray.  Click here to read the book.

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