Sunday, October 23, 2011

Lesley Bannatyne lecture and signing

Author Lesley Bannatine made an appearance at the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery where she talked about her newest book, Halloween Nation and discussed Halloween in general.  I like to think I know a lot about my favorite holiday, its origins, its history, its traditions, but Lesley has so much information and insight into Halloween I was able to add a lot more fun facts to my Halloween library.

Many of you already know that Halloween stems from Samhain, All Soul's Day and All Saint's Day.  I used to think that Halloween was simply another name for Samhain, but it's more of a mixture of the three that combines traditions and is further compounded by name similarities.  "What's important to the history of Halloween is that there was a supernatural element to Samhain." Lesley points out.  During All Soul's Day, the church encouraged people to pray for their loved ones.  The harder you prayed and the more money you gave the more likely your dearly departed would get into heaven.  Maybe they would also give you information in a dream if you helped them this way. (A form of fortunetelling.)

Halloween was brought to the United States by immigrants, but more as folklore and tradition than a holiday.  The Halloween we are familiar with now came about because of a "perfect storm."
1) The Civil War.  So many people went missing during that time, their loved ones were desperate to know and to communicate.  Halloween was a perfect time to do that.

2) Cheap printing.  Magazines and newspapers were being produced in droves.  There were "Ladies Magazines," just as there are today, that featured Halloween and gave tips for hosting parties, costumes and games.  It's funny how many adults will say that Halloween is "for kids" because in Victorian times, it was an adult holiday.  Over time it morphed into something for children.

3) Exotic cultures.  People were interested in different countries and their cultures.  The public wanted to know "What's out there?"  Most Halloween traditions came from Scottish immigrants and although Scotland may not seem terribly exotic today, in the late 1800s it was glamorous and mysterious.  Lesley compared Halloween parties in the 1880s-1890s to the Cinquo de Mayo celebrations we have today in the U.S.  We may not all be Mexican, but we can all share the festivities. 

The reason why Hallowen is so popular in the U.S. now?
1) The internet.  Halloween has grown because people, companies, trade shows, Haunted Attractions, etc.,  can now communicate. 

2) Nostalgia.  Many people today long for the magical times of their childhood.  Halloween was the epitome of an innocent time.  You could run around the neighborhood without adults, be welcomed by the community and accept food from strangers.  Today people are more cautious and fearful, but the memories of those feelings and fun times on Halloween are something many adults want to hang on to and that's why they love the holiday.

3) Horror. I was very surprised when Lesley stated that Halloween was not always a "horror" holiday. When John Carpenter's movie Halloween came out, Hollywood "woke up" and helped move the holiday into something more for teens. The connotations of it being a holiday where you can talk to the dead also lent itself to being a frightening time.

Although in it's present incarnation Halloween is a fairly new phenomena, there is something about the holiday that feels "old" and mysterious to me. Maybe because of the historic origins, and the  supernatural elements, which lend itself to more primitive instincts.  Maybe because most events are at night when things go "bump."  Whatever the reason, the holiday has captured something ancient and magical that lets us all hold onto it, no matter how we celebrate. 

Lesley's books.

If you would like to learn more about Halloween, visit Lesley's website HERE and scroll down to her link titled "articles."


~I am giving away one (1) signed copy of Halloween Nation and one (1) signed copy of A Halloween Reader to one (1) winner.   You can view my thoughts Halloween Nation HERE.

To Enter:
~Leave your name and e-mail address on the Rafflecopter form.
~Extra entries are optional.
~If you are choosing to do extra entries, please read the questions/instructions CAREFULLY!  If you do not follow the instructions, I reserve the right to disqualify that entry.

~Winner will be chosen by Rafflecopter.
~Sorry!  This contest is US and Canada only. 
~Please see my contest policy HERE.
~This contest ends on October 27, 2011 at 12:01am.
~If winner does not contact me within 72 hours (3 days) of my first e-mail, unfortunately another winner will be chosen.

Thank you for entering and good luck!


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