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The Hidden History of Halloween (page 2)

The Hidden History of Halloween

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Updated on May 16, 2009

In the seventies, classic horror films like The Exorcist showed that evil was real, lurking inside children like Linda Blair’s character. Family units were disintegrating from culture-changing events like Vietnam and Watergate, and in 1974, celebrants wore masks of President Nixon, reflecting our nation’s uncertainties. A post-war suburban sprawl created a landscape of anonymity, says Skal, and sensationalized news spooked parents, who were reluctant to send children trick-or-treating because of reports of candy poisoned with drugs and chemicals. After the rise in this “Halloween sadism,” the concept of “scary” became hot and profitable, in the form of fake blood, haunted houses, and horror flicks of the Halloween variety.

To be certain, Halloween is a rich and complex holiday. Here's a list of more traditional ways to celebrate:

  • Check your local newspaper for a nearby Día de los Muertos festival, which may be a culturally different experience for your child.
  • Carve something other than an orange pumpkin. Turnips, for instance, were the traditional “candle holders.”
  • Resurrect a once-popular activity of bobbing for apples in a basin, or “snapping” for apples, in which the fruits suspend from strings.
  • Revive a lost tradition by baking an apple tart with a coin hidden inside for your child to find. (Look up other tasty Irish Halloween dishes in which you can do this).
  • Wear costumes of real people or intellectuals who’ve made a contribution to the world, rather than the trite black cat, pirate, or French maid. If your son loves science, he can dress as Albert Einstein. If she loves art, she can be Mona Lisa.
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