Halloween in Urban North America: Liminality and Hyperreality

  • Nicholas Rogers


Halloween, a relatively free-form holiday under no particular jurisdiction, has managed to retain the revelrous, liminal nature characteristic of many festivals in the past. With its roots in the pagan festival of Samhain or summersend, All Hallows Eve remained a festival of popular divinatory practices, of bonfires to ward off evil spirits or to help souls in purgatory, and of omens and magic. Rites of masking, treating, revelry, and mischief were well established before the major waves of Irish and Scottish immigration to North America, but Halloween did not attract much public attention until the 1880s as rival holidays declined. Halloween’s modern popularity, however, also stems from its immersion in consumer culture and in the hyperreality of films, videos, spook houses, and ‘‘terror trains’’, in which the distinction between the real and the imaginary is blurred.
Festival and Spectacle in Twentieth-Century North America