By David J. Skal
Bloomsbury, 224 pp, 2002
I really enjoyed reading this book,
mainly because it's about my second-favorite holiday, Halloween.
Halloween just rocks. It's easily the most fun holiday. More fun than
Christmas? Of course. To many, Christmas is more of a chore than
anything else. Not so Halloween. We can celebrate his holiday however we
wish, or even ignore it. No chores involved.
But back to the book. It's an informative
and fun look at Halloween, both its history and how it's celebrated
Skal, author of other books like
Hollywood Gothic, Monster Show, V is for Vampire, and Screams of Reason,
has obviously done his homework. He shows how the American celebration
of Halloween stems from a smorgasbord of ancient and newer traditions
imported from European countries like England, Ireland, and France.
Sure, some Celts celebrated the harvest eons ago, but Christianity
incorporated that into its own holiday celebrations.
Skal then travels to Salem to explain how
that town does Halloween. Needles to say, it hams it up, with tons of
witch stuff and wax museums. Halloween is an industry there and easily
the town's sole claim to fame. If it weren't for the witch hunts and
trials three hundred years ago, Salem would be just another small town.
Skal then turns his attention to those
wonderfully creative folks who operate their own homemade haunted
houses. I envy those people. I'd love to do the same. I used to help a
friend set up a haunted house in his garage and backyard. It was a lot
of work and money but an absolute blast. I suppose I'll have to
compensate with my front yard displays, which are growing more elaborate
every year. Maybe I'll take pictures and post them this year.
He then moves on to Halloween on Castro
Street and elsewhere in the country where celebrating Halloween is a bit
more controversial. Some folks just don't like Halloween. They don't get
it, I think. They have this crazy idea in their heads that it's a
satanic holiday filled with wackos who stick razor blades in apples. For
practically everyone who celebrates Halloween, it ain't like that. Never
been and never will be.
So if you like Halloween, or just mildly
interested in why we celebrate this great holiday, read this book. You
won't be sorry.