Book name: Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween
Author: Lisa Morton
Publisher: Reaktion Books
Format: ebook, print
Genre: Nonfiction, horror
Publication Date: 2013
Star Rating: 5/5
I can't get enough of Halloween so I was keen to explore this book when it was published back in 2012.
Lisa Morton's thesis is more or less that after centuries when the great festival was either forgotten or entirely misunderstood, it has now wormed its way back into our collective memories and affections.
Having conquered America, it's now spreading its tendrils out into the rest of the world - except in countries where All Hallows' Day is reserved for celebrating The Day of the Dead, where cultural sensibilities mean it hasn't attracted quite the same attention or acceptance.
Unsurprisingly for a festival that has in the distant past been associated with child sacrifice, Samhain was allowed to quietly fall into disuse and was ignored as soon as the Church had morphed it into the more faith-friendly form of All Hallow's Eve and All Hallow's Day.
Lisa Morton looks into how this happens and delves right into the literary inaccuracies of early portrayals of Halloween in eighteenth and nineteenth century works, when it was in danger of being forgotten completely.
Halloween is back from the dead and Morton details its resurrection with impressive thoroughness, chronicling how this took place in early twentieth century America.
What we would see as coy parties and very controlled children's entertainment gently brought Halloween back into American favour through activities very clearly designed to keep a lid on the chaos of trick or treat in a society which featured a lot more intergenerational authority than ours today.
Postwar, everyone (kids and adults) got a whole lot feistier and less inclined to just do what they were told. At this point Lisa Morton's history neatly morphs into a story-by-story and film-by-film exposition of how once Halloween exploded back onto the scene and shaken us all up a bit, it was able to enrich and improve the horror genre.
And at the same time it was giving us all some lovely memories. People of my generation are now old enough to have kids who love Halloween and to remember fondly their own trick or treating. Add nostalgia to sugar rush and it's a potent experience.
Halloween is now big business but I prefer the homemade costumes and candies. This book was full of ideas for road trips to celebrate. Both enthusiastic DIY 'home haunts' and professionals like Netherworld, Atlanta, Georgia, are covered here in great detail.
My favourite chapter was probably the one devoted to the celebration of Halloween in different parts of the world and how hard my favourite festival is working to win over fans in more challenging markets. Morton deals in detail with the reception of Halloween in Catholic countries and the tension between it and the Christian festival of All Saints Day.
Above all, Trick or Treat does an admirable job in analysing why Halloween continues to have such enduring appeal.
Thank you for reading my review of Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween by Lisa Morton.
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