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Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night Hardcover – October 31, 2002

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1st edition (October 31, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195146913
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195146912
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 0.8 x 5.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,793,635 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

If America is a melting pot, then Halloween is the stew that simmers in our national cauldron. In this fascinating study, Rogers shows how the holiday is a hodgepodge of ancient European pagan traditions, 19th-century Irish and Scottish celebrations, Western Christian interpretations of All Souls' Day and thoroughly modern American consumer ideals. At its heart, he says, Halloween is a celebration of the inversion of social codes-children have power over adults, marauders can make demands of established homeowners and anyone may assume a temporary disguise. Canadian professor Rogers is a fine cultural historian, who carefully sifts through complex social and religious data to tease out meanings and trajectories. One excellent chapter illuminates Halloween and Hollywood, while a chapter entitled Border Crossings discusses Halloween observance among non-Anglo populations in North America, including Mexico's "Dia de los Muertos." Rogers's is the best study to date of the history and growing significance of Halloween.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"Halloween is a rich mix of historical detail and keen cultural observation about the holiday in North America. He reaches far back to the festival's pagan roots and follows its development into a unique celebration of liminality, cultural borrowing, and outrageous invention. Halloween is surely an important contribution to a growing literature that takes seriously our moments of play." --Penne Restad, author of Christmas in America: A History

"This book paints its subject in very broad strokes, giving us a glimpse of an increasingly significant holiday over a vast expanse of space and time. How delightful, too, to read about an event through a North American, rather than strictly American perspective." --Jack Kugelmass, author of Masked Culture: The Greenwich Village Halloween Parade

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Eric on October 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The negative reviews I've read so far are trashing the book because it wasn't what they expected it to be: a nostalgic, easy read to be enjoyed while sipping hot cider. The book doesn't present itself as such and is clearly an academic and scholarly survey of the holiday.

I found the book to be a slim, well-written text that still manages to cover a wide range of topics and provide tons of interesting facts and figures. Rogers' main thesis is that Halloween, a holiday that continually reinvents itself, continues to provide "a space for transgression and parody," even as it is appropriated to fit the social and political needs of the culture. Rogers explores this thesis by examining the origins of Halloween, its history in Britain and North America, its similarities to Mexico's "Day of the Dead," urban legends and popular reactions to the holiday, its representation in Hollywood, and current trends in its celebration. He ends with a few guesses and questions about the holiday's future. A thorough analysis without getting bogged down in any one aspect.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By G. Hansen on October 26, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As other reviews suggest, this is not a ghost story or for those with short attention spans. Dr. Rogers is a professor of history, and he has produced a correspondingly scholarly book of history, including names, dates, argumentation, and references to his source materials. When I found the book, I was mainly interested in the early history of Halloween, and the first part of the book delivers it. And it's an important contribution, contrasting with pop-histories that paste later Christian traditions on to early Celtic celebrations, and basically dismiss a thousand years of Christian development as something like "And then they tried to Christianize it because those darned pagans wouldn't go away". Halloween evolved as the cultures celebrating it evolved, and you can't understand its celebration today through a single slice of time in history.

I was tempted to give it four stars instead of five because I thought the author put too much space into Halloween movies, and not enough into the early American development. But he was bringing us up through its modern celebration in the US and Canada, and movies are an important source and reflection of the culture, so I suppose that serves his intent.

You shouldn't try to learn any subject from a single book. Excellent companion books are "The Pagan Mysteries of Halloween" by Markale, for its early history, and "Halloween: An American Holiday, An American Tradition" by Bannatyne for its American development, if you ignore her pre-American history of it (for reasons which are explained comprehensively in Ronald Hutton's "Triumph of the Moon").
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By ShawnMarie on August 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book has an amazing amount of information in it about Halloween from the Celtic period to post 9/11 and anyone wanting to learn about the history of the holiday over this entire span should start with this book.

I can't fault the author in any way for what is written, my problem was with how it was written. It didn't seem as though the author enjoyed the holiday and that made the writing seem kind of gray to me, not enjoyable as it would be with someone who really loves the holiday.

Still a great reference book though.
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18 of 24 people found the following review helpful By S. Magliocco on June 30, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Single-subject histories on the likes of salt, codfish and even the color red have become a fashionable lately, and this book is a fine specimen of the genre. It traces the history of the celebration of October 31 from Samhain, the year cycle rite observed by the pagan Celts in Britain, to the many ways it is marked in North America at the time of the new millennium. His central thesis, supported by myriad examples and illustrations, is that Halloween has always been a liminal time, a boundary between autumn and winter, this world and the other world, life and death. Drawing from the theory of anthropologist Victor Turner, he argues that liminal times are also periods of ritual inversion in which the obverse of cultural values, however they are construed, are temporarily allowed to emerge into public consciousness and celebrated before being relegated once again to the cultural closet. Whether these oppositional symbols are spiritual otherworlds, as they were for the ancient Celts, or consist instead of what is disavowed by the dominant cultural paradigm, Halloween provides a framework during which they can be publicly explored and performed. This central feature of Halloween, more than any individual rite or symbol, constitutes the core of the holiday that has endured for over a thousand years. From Celtic Samhain to globalized celebration of consumer culture, Halloween seems to attract to it the oppositional and the carnivalesque. No wonder, then, that is has become a popular target for the invectives of conservative Christian ministers and their congregations, who label it "Satanic" and call for its suppression. But the suppression of culturally contested symbols never successfully eliminates the ideas behind them.Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By kurtis primm on February 7, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
First let me say that this book is like a history book on the history of halloween. If you are looking for a quick halloween story or costume and party information, then this book is not for you.This book deals with the actual history of this wonderful holiday,where it came from and how it adapted to what it is now.I found this book to be a great source of information on the history of my favorite holiday.I would recommend this book to anyone who wants an in depth read of the history of Halloween.
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