Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night

Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night

Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night

Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night

Synopsis

Boasting a rich, complex history rooted in Celtic and Christian ritual, Halloween has evolved from ethnic celebration to a blend of street festival, fright night, and vast commercial enterprise. In this colorful history, Nicholas Rogers takes a lively, entertaining look at the cultural origins and development of one of the most popular holidays of the year. Drawing on a fascinating array of sources, from classical history to Hollywood films, Rogers traces Halloween as it emerged from the Celtic festival of Samhain (summer's end), picked up elements of the Christian Hallowtide (All Saint's Day and All Soul's Day), arrived in North America as an Irish and Scottish festival, and evolved into an unofficial but large-scale holiday by the early 20th century. He examines the 1970s and '80s phenomena of Halloween sadism (razor blades in apples) and inner-city violence (arson in Detroit), as well as the immense influence of the horror film genre on the reinvention of Halloween as a terror-fest. Throughout his vivid account, Rogers shows how Halloween remains, at its core, a night of inversion, when social norms are turned upside down, and a temporary freedom of expression reigns supreme. He examines how this very license has prompted censure by the religious Right, occasional outrage from law enforcement officials, and appropriation by Left-leaning political groups. Engagingly written and based on extensive research, Halloween is the definitive history of the most bewitching day of the year, illuminating the intricate history and shifting cultural forces behind this enduring trick-or-treat holiday.

Excerpt

In 1998, my partner and I decided to leave the tricksters at our door and venture downtown to the gay quarter of Toronto. For many years now, the gay parades to the St. Charles tavern, one of the highlights of Halloween in the 1970s, had disappeared;they had been displaced by the emergence of Gay Pride Day as a celebration of homosexual affirmation. in the last few years, the main Halloween action could be found on Yonge Street, where youthful revelers rocked cars that were locked in the traffic and paraded along the sidewalk to the honking of horns and the flashing of cameras. Witches, demons, devils, clowns, Draculas, and Frankenstein's monsters all walked the walk, and, very occasionally, at the intersection of Church and Wellesley, in particular, one could catch a glimpse of Beauty and the Beast, or a meticulously dressed Marie Antoinette, on their way to a private party. But in 1998, the revelers were out in force for Masquer Aid. Two blocks of Church Street had been cordoned off, and the costumes glistened in the neon lights.

At Slack Alice's Bar and Grill, we encountered our first Monica Lewinsky of the night. She had all the gear: the beret, the blue semen-stained dress, the presidential cigar. in our corner of the bar cross-dressers abounded: women dressed as pirates, bejewelled ladies with party masks, a six-foot-one Joan Crawford sporting a cigarette . . .

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