Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween

In Nonfiction on May 21, 2010 at 2:55 am

Title: Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween
Author: David J. Skal
Genre: Nonfiction/holidays
Rating: **/****

Being a fan of Halloween I had to pick up Skal’s volume about my beloved holiday.  Skal emphasizes in his subtitle that it’s a cultural history, not just a straight history because as you will learn after reading the book that documentation isn’t available to provide the necessary links between each tradition that’s formed (as of yet).  So, Skal makes up for the lack of information by focusing upon other aspects of the holiday such as how it was celebrated in various parts of the US, how immigrants shaped the holiday, & how it’s been commercialized to the point of losing its eerie legacy underneath all the plastic & officially licensed costumes.

I rather liked his efforts to the defend the holiday & to destroy the myths associated with the holiday such as the ever present fear of poisoned candy. Currently, the worst case of candy being poisoned was from a father who put cyanide into his own son’s candy & let him die to collect insurance money. Now that’s scary! Also, I enjoyed his analysis of Halloween films, but overall the book seemed choppy, not knowing where to go next or what to focus upon.

I recommend it for its basic study of the history of Halloween, but I do hope a more complete text will be written in the future.


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