Monday, October 31, 2005
It's funny--I find myself returning to "The Battle for Christmas" (see my post on 9/18, "Tisn't quite the season, but..."), even though it's Halloween. Maybe I'm just unseasonable. But what strikes me about the book's significance to this day--all Hallows Eve--is the remarkable similarity that Halloween used to share with the Christmas holiday. In the 18th and 19th centuries, working class people customarily invaded the homes of elites on or about December 25th, sometimes in costume, demanding sweets and other confections. A failure to produce the goods often resulted in interminable drunken singing, mischief, and even acts of outright vandalism. Christmas was a temporary, carnivalesque reversal of the established social order, the class dynamics of which have been transposed onto the act of children knocking at our doors demanding candy. And in that respect, though I love Halloween, it's hard not to be a little cynical about it. The cutting, critical-edge of many of our most cherished holidays has been blunted by a loss of the historicity of our ways of celebrating (or repeating) them.