Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween

Posted October 13th, 2013 by Halloweenish

Every year, children and adults alike take to the streets dressed as witches, demons, animals, celebrities, and more. They carve pumpkins and play pranks, and the braver ones watch scary movies and go on ghost tours. There are parades, fireworks displays, cornfield mazes, and haunted houses—and, most important, copious amounts of bite-sized candy. The popularity of Halloween has spread around the globe to places as diverse as Russia, China, and Japan, but its association with death and the supernatural and its inevitable commercialization has made it one of our most misunderstood holidays. How did it become what it is today?
In Trick or Treat, Halloween aficionado Lisa Morton provides a thorough history of this spooky day. She begins by looking at how holidays like the Celtic Samhain, a Gaelic harvest festival, have blended with the British Guy Fawkes Day and the Catholic All Souls’ Day to produce the modern Halloween, and she explains how the holiday was reborn in America, where costumes and trick-or-treat rituals have become new customs. Morton takes into account the influence of related but independent holidays, especially the Mexican Day of the Dead, as well as the explosion in popularity of haunted attractions and the impact of such events as 9/11 and the economic recession on the celebration today. Trick or Treat also examines the effect Halloween has had on popular culture through the literary works of Washington Irving and Ray Bradbury, films like Halloween and The Nightmare Before Christmas, and television shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Simpsons.
Considering the holiday in the context of its worldwide popularity for the first time, this book will be a treat for any Halloween lover.

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2 Responses to “Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween”

  1. kurtis primm

    Best Halloween History book I have ever read! This is the very best most imformative Halloween history book that I have ever read. If you want to know the true roots of this spactacular holiday, not the heresay, or muddled assumptions, but the truth with facts, then look no further than this book. I have a massive Halloween book collection and I have never read a book yet with so much information about the true roots of Halloween. The book was a great read and I could not put it down. I am so very glad that I bought this book, and if you are a lover of Halloween, or history, then pick up this book. You will be very glad that you did.

  2. Books Lovers Never Go to Bed Alone

    Read like a blog site Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween is precisely what it claimed to be–a history of the centuries old holiday that has become Halloween. Morton’s work is not a scholarly study, but instead strives for a more popular style of writing, including illustrations. As this is not a scholarly study, the question then arises as to why we need another popular history of Halloween. Morton begins her work with the Celtic holiday of Samhain. She provides a thorough background of the Celtic mythology and links to Beltaine as well. She then moves to the continent, focusing on an eclectic combination of holiday influences from Denmark to Guy Fawkes Day in England. There are chapters on The Day of the Dead from Mexico and other global traditions. The book closes with an extensive chapter on modern Halloween, including movies and theme parks. As I finished, I couldn’t help but feel as if I had just finished several Wikipedia articles. There was little fresh information here for fans of the holiday. The work was well-detailed, but those details could come from any decent blog site or encyclopedia article. Simply put, there was little reason to write this book and even less reason to read it. For horror fans, Halloween is the holiday of the year. Scares, frights, ghouls, and monsters come out of the shadows to invade our streets, our homes, and our imaginations. This holiday is rich with history and symbolism, and Morton tries to bring that history to life. Unfortunately, it’s merely a retelling of the basics instead of an enlightening journey into the past. Three stars because it’s well-written, but check out any of the major Halloween web sites for essentially the same material.Review copy

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